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Devil Remains in the Detail after NYC Teacher Contract Announcement

For months we have been urging the administration to solve the problem of the ATR pool in a way that will keep ineffective teachers out of the classroom. We have not yet seen the fine print, and while we're optimistic that the administration heeded our call, we will remain vigilant in ensuring that no child will be forced to suffer an ineffective teacher.

We have long supported merit pay for teachers, making it easier to remove ineffective teachers, and not only increasing the number of charter schools, but emulating those practices in district schools. There are some signs that the administration has recognized the efficacy of signature proposals of the education reform movement. If true, it's very encouraging. However, the devil's in the details and in the execution so we will be watching closely.

ATRs:

  • The City is saying that an arbitrator may make a decision to terminate based upon two write ups from principals -- but they don't have to. So, this could represent an improvement if there was an arbitrator who wanted to remove low performing teachers. If the arbitrator does not want to remove low performing teachers - as has historically been the case - then this represents no real change.

  • The law right now sets a high standard of misconduct for a teacher to be terminated -- is the City going to change that standard in the law, or will this collective bargaining agreement override the law? It's hard to believe that two days of observations could lead to the termination of a tenured teacher.

  • We will know if this is real based on what Mike Mulgrew says to ATR teachers -- if he tells them, "We will fight for you and will not allow these two write-ups to cause you to unfairly lose your job" then this policy will not adequately protect children from ineffective teachers.

"Hard to Staff School Differential"

  • If every existing teacher in a "hard to staff" school gets a $5,000 bonus, then you're incentivizing all of those teachers -- regardless of their effectiveness -- to remain. Presumably a school that is "hard to staff" is also low-performing. That means that you're incentivizing an ineffective team to remain stable.

  • The big question is -- does a teacher need to be rated effective or highly effective in order to get this bonus? If the children continue to perform poorly, will the bonuses no longer continue? If that is not the case, then these bonuses are just a giveaway to the adults and will not produce results for children.

"Reward the Best Teachers and Keep them in the Classroom":

  • The City could have taken this a step further and could have eliminated steps and lanes for all teachers. Right now, if a teacher attains extra degrees, which research shows has no impact on student outcomes, then they can get salary increases. It remains to be seen whether changes to steps and lanes will be made.

PROSE Schools:

The levels of freedom and accountability will make all the difference here.

  • It's great that the district wants to emulate practices of charter schools, but it remains to be seen just how much autonomy the school principal will have and just what provisions of the teachers contract the school can choose to ignore. Can a school choose to increase class size as a way to afford art class?

  • The central compact with charters is that they get more freedom in exchange for more accountability -- will there be any change to the accountability of these schools?

Re-programming the school day:

  • While increased time for professional development and parent engagement are good things, we're disappointed that there will be a reduction in instructional time of 37.5 minutes per day for children. The trend nationally has been to extend instructional time, not reduce it. How will the City ensure that struggling students get additional support?

  • If the Tuesday block does not get filled with parent appointments, does the principal have the freedom to assign that teacher to a co-planning period or to tutor struggling students 1:1?

"Fire Teachers Who Behave Inappropriately"

  • By adding additional criteria, the City is not actually making it easier to terminate teachers who've engaged in misconduct. Teachers who have engaged in misconduct according to the current criteria are not able to be removed easily. Adding more criteria will not change this process.

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