The Education Leaders Council unveiled a partnership with the Milken Family Foundation last week to pilot a program that aims to improve the quality of the nation’s teachers. Organizers say that mission will be accomplished by changing the way educators are paid, utilized in schools, and made accountable for their work.
Eight state school leaders who belong to the Washington-based ELC offered up their states as testing grounds for such policies. Officials from Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia were on hand at the news briefing here to endorse the program. Leaders from Florida were not in attendance. The states represent about 30 percent of U.S. students in grades K-12.
“This is really a chance to redefine the profession,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok said at the briefing.
Mr. Hickok chairs the board of directors of the ELC, a conservative-leaning group formed in 1995 by state education officials who believed their views were not being represented by the Council of Chief State School Officers, also based here.
The Teacher Advancement Program will be implemented in the fall at four elementary schools in Arizona, said Lewis C. Soloman, the senior vice president of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Milken Family Foundation.
Each school will receive a $100,000 grant from the foundation to support the first year of the program. Districts will be asked to contribute personnel and, in some instances, cash to help finance the program, he said.
“Ideally, we’d like to see 10 to 12 states participating,” Mr. Soloman said. “I would like to see maybe 100 schools involved in the next five years.”
No final price tag has been placed on the project, he said.
The program aims to move schools away from traditional salary structures in which teachers are compensated according to the number of years spent in school systems, Mr. Soloman said. Instead, school administrators will negotiate salaries and reward teachers for their work and for student achievement, he said.
Educators who took on responsibilities above and beyond their classroom duties—mentoring young colleagues, for example—would earn merit pay under the plan. Such a strategy, organizers say, seeks to reward teachers for becoming leaders in their schools rather than biding their time until they are promoted into better-paying administrative positions.
In addition, the plan calls for three-year, renewable contracts to replace teacher-tenure policies.
Working with unions that negotiate districtwide teacher salaries isn’t likely to be a problem, Mr. Soloman predicted. “Many local and state unions today recognize that they need to find new ways to reward competent teachers, so I think they’ll listen,” he said.
Holding on to Tenure
The American Federation of Teachers agrees that educators should be compensated well for their work, but it would never endorse dismantling the tenure system, said Joan Baratz-Snowden, the deputy director of the 1 million-member union.
Teachers would have no incentive to work in jobs where pay is low without tenure, Ms. Baratz-Snowden said.
Under the foundation’s strategy, teachers would be assessed by colleagues from both within and outside their schools and districts. Programs of teacher professional development would be ongoing at every level in every school, according to the plan.
The foundation also suggests forming multistate teacher-credentialing systems and expanding alternative-credentialing programs in an attempt to expand the pool of new teachers. Such policies will not be a part of the initial pilot program, Mr. Soloman said.
“None of this is all that radical,” Ms. Baratz-Snowden said of those proposals. “The unions are willing to work with the management on this.”
The ELC also announced the launch of a World Wide Web site in conjunction with the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
The site, www.TQClearinghouse.org, will provide information on teacher-quality policies nationwide.
A version of this article appeared in the May 03, 2000 edition of Education Week as ELC, Milken Foundation Launch Teacher-Quality Program