Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Newark Teachers Can Expect From Their New Contract

Baltimore teachers voted down a contract negotiated by the local AFT affiliate back in 2010, a contract that agreed to base 50% of evaluations upon test scores, got rid of salary steps and added merit pay provisions.  The contract was praised by AFT President Randi Weingarten as a model, innovative contract:

"We're rewarding teachers for contributing to student learning and improving their practice as well as their fellow teachers' practice with high-quality professional development. We're rewarding teachers for great teaching."

Weingarten was embarrassed when the contract was rejected by a 1,540 to 1,107 vote, so she did what she does best - worked behind the scenes to make sure reformers got their model, innovative contract:

Baltimore's teaching corps just ratified, by a 1,902-1,045 vote, a new contract that does away with many of the features of its traditional "step-and-lane" salary schedule in favor of one that puts a heavier emphasis on teacher performance.

It looks like second time's a charm in Baltimore: A nearly identical proposal was put to the teacher corps last month and was soundly rejected.

There are a lot of new details in this plan, but arguably its newsiest feature is that it restructures the base-pay system for teachers, which in nearly every district in the country is based on credentials and longevity.

There won't be any more automatic "step" increases each year in Baltimore; raises will be based on collecting achievement units from good evaluations and participation in professional development.
Graduate credits, which used to grant teachers permanent "lane" increases, aren't totally eliminated, but their emphasis is much reduced in the new system. One credit is just one achievement unit, while a superior evaluation is 12. So getting good evaluations is a much faster way to increase one's pay.
Teachers can also advance up a career ladder, taking on additional roles as they earn good evaluations and pass a peer review.

The contract is important in the larger national conversation about teacher pay, too, because to date most experiments with pay have been with additive features, like bonuses, rather than changes to the base-pay salary grid. I recently wrote a story about the handful of districts that have started to look at base pay, and you can find more details about the Baltimore contract in it.

And this is another feather in the cap for Randi Weingarten and her American Federation of Teachers locals. The union and district, she said in a statement, "have shown what is possible when both sides are committed to a collaborative process that is focused on working in the best interests of kids," adding that "trust is paramount in any contractual agreement." 

Weingarten took a bow for getting that contract voted through the second time around and then moved on to reform efforts elsewhere, her sell-out work in Baltimore done.

And how did that "innovative" contract work out in Baltimore?

Not so well:

A significant number of Baltimore teachers — in some schools as many as 60 percent of the staff — have received unsatisfactory ratings on their midyear evaluations as the system moves to implement a pay-for-performance contract that's considered a bellwether for a national movement.

Teachers contend that the high number of "performance improvement plans," which can be a precursor for dismissal, is an attempt to avoid paying raises. But city school officials say that putting teachers on such plans is part of broader efforts to help them become more effective in the classroom.

 Baltimore is one of a handful of districts at the forefront of a national debate on how to root out the worst teachers and reward the most effective. The city has joined a growing number of districts looking to implement new evaluation systems that link teacher ratings and pay to students' academic progress.


Baltimore's school system declined to say how many teachers have been placed on PIPs because of unsatisfactory evaluations. But school and union officials confirmed that in some schools around the city, more than 60 percent of teachers received one.

Tisha Edwards, chief of staff for the school system, said the recent spate of PIPs doesn't mean that more than half of the teachers in certain schools would be fired. However, she said, given the low student test scores around the city, some teachers should expect their jobs to be in jeopardy.
"We do have schools where that should be a reality," Edwards said.

In 2013, every teacher in Maryland will be evaluated based on student performance, as state education leaders continue to hammer out on a new evaluation system that will base 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student achievement. Baltimore was the first locality in the state to include pay for performance in a contract.

PIPs have traditionally represented an agreement between a teacher and a principal on areas of improvement. If a teacher fails to meet the goals, the district can begin taking steps toward dismissal. Edwards said the evaluation process in the past has lacked consistency, feedback and a paper trail of efforts to help teachers improve.

"We have more people on PIPs, and we're proud of it," she added. "We're not saying we're going to fire everybody, but we're using PIPs the way they were supposed to be used, but never were: to communicate where we need to develop, and get better about documenting the development of our people."

But the new approach has spurred backlash from city teachers who feel vulnerable under a contract that, now in its second year, has yet to be fully fleshed out. Union and district officials are still hammering out the most critical piece of the pact: how teachers will be evaluated.

Educators for Democratic Schools, a group of 85 who opposed the contract, believes the district's strategy of giving a large number of teachers an unsatisfactory evaluation midway through the year is intended to make it harder for them to be rated proficient at the end of the year.

Teachers who are rated proficient receive an automatic pay raise under the Baltimore Teachers Union contract, ratified in October 2010.

"We thought it would be great if we all made 80 grand, and we think there are lots of teachers who should, but we never believed there was enough money to support that," said Iris Kirsch, spokeswoman for the group.

Kirsch, in her sixth year as an English teacher, was placed on a PIP along with several teachers at Heritage High School.

"We always said this contract is going to make the evaluation process into a much bigger deal, where personal attacks can turn into pay cuts and threaten people's job security, and that seems to be exactly what is happening," she said

Have you got it now?

They're not out to give merit pay raises to everybody in the system.

They're out to fire as many as they can, hand out as few salary increases as possible and overall use the new evaluation laws to bludgeon teachers into submission.

And Randi Weingarten - the reform-friendly labor leader beloved by Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and DFER Joe Williams - is the union leader who helped negotiate both versions of the Baltimore contract and worked very hard to get that second one passed.

Where is Randi standing up for the 60% of Baltimore teachers getting "u-rated" and put on the list to be fired?

I'll tell you where she is - she's nowhere to be found in Baltimore and is rather lurking around in New Jersey where she's doing the reformers' work on this Newark contract.

Newark teachers ought to beware of this contract - the merit pay provisions, the destruction of salary steps, the Zuckerberg money (which will run out), the fact that both Weingarten and Governor Chris Christie like this contract very much.

Take a look at what is happening in Baltimore.  Take a look at what is happening in D.C. 

That is what will happen to you in Newark if this contract is passed - the VAM is voodoo and you cannot trust anything based upon it (as Jersey Jazzman shows here.)

And the blood money from Facebook will run out quicker than you can say "like" and what you will be left with is a punitive contract with no salary increases but plenty of pain.


  1. Keep them voting till they get it right.

    Where Weingarten treads, catastrophe follows.

  2. It's true - she's done more damage to public school education and teachers than a lot of ed deformers.

    Mayoral control, merit pay, the TDR's, "fair funding" for schools that gives incentives for administrators to get rid of veteran teachers, buying into the "Bad Teacher" frame - the list goes on, but those are some of the major catastrophes brought about by Weingarten and her merry minions.

    Newark teachers would be wise to reject this contract, not only for their own good, but for the good of all teachers in NJ.

  3. I wanted to respond to the factual inaccuracies made in this blog post, especially about what happened after the Baltimore contract.

    The contract in Baltimore allows the union to ask for an investigation when the number of teachers receiving unsatisfactory evaluations increases in ANY given school. They did request an investigation and learned that the number of teachers who received a U rating increased by a TOTAL of just 10 across the entire system. The story just isn’t accurate, there has been no rush to fire teachers or deny them advancements.

    In fact based on our conversations with BTU the number of teachers who have advanced on to the new scale to master teacher status has actually been above and beyond what anyone expected and that’s been positive for students and teachers in Baltimore.

    1. I wish I believed your assurances that all is well in Baltimore post-2010 contract, but some Baltimore teachers would disagree with your assertion.

      Not only did the Baltimore Sun article from March 2012 point out the problems teachers are having with the sharp increase in "u-ratings," but actual working Baltimore teachers have echoed the problems as recently as this September: