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Baltimore teachers pass groundbreaking contract

The Baltimore teachers union approved a contract today that does away with seniority-based “step” raises, and instead creates four “career pathways” — one of which is for highly effective teachers. The contract also allows for teachers and principals of individual schools to lengthen the school day or make other changes. (This September Baltimore Sun editorial provides more detail on the contract, itself.)

The union rejected the same contract earlier this fall. According to the Baltimore Sun and AFT President Randi Weingarten, who issued a statement tonight, teachers felt they needed more time to study these changes.

Here’s part of Weingarten’s statement:

WASHINGTON—With today’s contract ratification, Baltimore joins a growing list of school districts nationwide that are using collective bargaining and collaboration as vehicles for education reform. The contract is a bold step by the Baltimore Teachers Union and the Baltimore City Public Schools to transform the city’s school system and make a difference in the lives of all students. It meshes unique reforms with school improvement strategies that are working in other districts. The BTU and BCPS 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.

The provisions of the agreement establish a foundation for improved teaching and learning. The agreement replaces the conventional seniority system with a new career pathway that allows educators to determine the pace of their career advancement and associated salary increases, depending on additional work they take on as well as training they complete. It also provides for labor-management collaboration on school improvement programs and other education decisions, a process to ensure more reliable teacher evaluations, and increased access to better professional development.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR, do you really mean that the young teacher you describe in #45 and 46 gets a “non-elected” every year. There are two ways teachers in their first two years can lose their jobs: Non-reelection means that an administrator has decided he or she does not want the teacher back and the teacher is finished at the end of the school year with no rehire rights. Non-reelection is used when administrators are displeased with new teachers; it is not used to save money. If there is a need to cut teachers to save money, that is called “reduction in force” and the teacher has very specific rights to regain a position if jobs are restored at a later date.

  • Gordon Danning

    JR:

    I think you misapprehend the argument in favor of tenure. It is not that it allows teachers to advocate in support of an individual student; that is not very controversial. Rather, tenure allows teachers to speak out against such things as misguided school policies, lax discipline, pressure to lower standards, poor funding decisions, etc, etc, etc. It also allows teachers to inform higher-ups in the district when they feel that a principal is not up to snuff, or to complain to outside agencies or the media when the school is not following state law re: a variety of matters, including health and safety. I have witnessed all of those things happen at my school in the past 15 years.

    Hot R: I don’t see how you can accuse JR of “class warfare” when he notes the data on the educational achievement of teachers. And, arguing that “some of those teachers struggled through college because they themselves were the first in their families to go to college” is just a wild guess, and sounds like a lame excuse, frankly. We won’t improve education by avoiding inconvenient facts.

    And, it might be true that policemen make $100,000 per year while being in the lower 1/3 of community college, but, so what? The issue isn’t about “fairness,” but about effectiveness. All things being equal, someone from the top of his or her class at a top university is likely to do a better job teaching than someone in the bottom 1/3 at a mediocre university. It is pretty tough to argue about that.

  • JR

    Steven,
    In this particular district all teachers who are below probationary status are non-elected(laid off)and that is the terminology they use.These teachers have been stuck in this vicious loop for years now, it has to end.

  • Katy Murphy

    Correction to my earlier comment: Gary Yee and David Kakishiba were elected to the Oakland school board in the spring of 2002, but they weren’t sworn in until January 2003, after the financial shortfall had come to light.

    In other words, Noel Gallo is the only school board member out of seven who was serving before the fiscal crisis.

    This is in response to someone who asked why “the same board for the most part) that sunk OUSD into the 100 million dollar bailout in 2003 still serve?”

  • JR

    Hot R,
    Teachers are extremely important(the good and great), but when you talk about police and a lesser extent fire that is the difference between civilization and anarchy.They are overpaid(more so as the age and go behind a desk), as are most civil servants, but when you have two sides negotiating with money that isn’t theirs(it’s the taxpayers)that can and does happen.This is not class warfare, this is reality and things will get harder from here on.

  • JR

    Steven,
    I just looked up the terminology, and you are correct, they did use the wrong term, it should have been “laid off” not “non-elected”. That was just verbal laziness on our part, Thank you for the correction.

  • Steven Weinberg

    JR, in post #53 about the teacher who is laid off year after year (in a district other than Oakland) you say that all teachers “who are below probationary status” are laid-off every year. The only status I know below probationary is “temporary.” Teachers on temporary contract have even fewer rights than probationary teachers, and they don’t even need to be given official notice that they will not be back. They are gone unless they are offered a new contract.
    Bad as this is, it is even worse when their temporary status is not explained clearly at hiring. I know two tenured teachers who left Oakland for higher pay in a neighboring district and never realized that they had been hired on temporary contracts. Dan Adiletta, who posted his new teacher experiences on this site, had the same problem.
    Districts can only use temporary contracts when the new teacher is replacing a person on leave or when the funding source is clearly temporary, but with the cuts to regular funding sources and districts’ dependence on bail-out funds, which are only guaranteed for a year, the number of temporary teachers has increased greatly. This article describes how it works near San Diego: http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/education/article_4e4b4202-d8fa-59e7-ae0c-2d48aa97ea28.html
    CTA opposes the growth of temporary contracts and worked for laws that limited their use and for laws that guaranteed that temporary teachers would have health care (once they did not). If a district is grossly over-using such contracts, the union might be able to correct the problem, so I hope the teacher you cite in your post has checked with the union in that district.

  • Katy Murphy

    JR: Are you referring to March 15 pink slips — notices of a possible layoff? Or are these teachers actually laid off and then, in some cases, rehired over the summer?

  • JR

    Katy,
    They have actually been laid off(but a few were rehired as school started). Most are doing other things.

  • Hot r

    Experienced teachers are much more valuable than inexperienced teachers. These anecdotal attacks on a few terrible teachers demean the whole profession. Hire an inexperienced accountant, lawyer and doctor if you want, but I’ll take an experienced teacher every time and so will a principal who wants to build a great school. Look at the lists of teachers who go to the conferences, take the webinairs and attend the AP training. See who assigns the most essays, demands the most of their students and has the highest standards in their classrooms. It’s no secret. Parents, students and even administrators know. Teachers are not interchangeable widgets and should be paid based on their results. The fact is that some are better than others. One critique of paying teachers for results is that now you take away any incentive to share your knowledge with others.

  • cheuy_leuy

    Has anyone here viewed: Capitalism – A Love Story by Michael Moore?

    If you all enjoy being controlled by the slow evolving media and political propaganda campaign against teachers and their unions since about the beginning of the Reagan era and the Nation at Risk Report, which is now just the climax of 35+ years of a bunch of manufactured propaganda to induce the racket I hear repeated over and over in the blog’s comment section, and which is really getting old given Oakland-Berkeley’s purported level of social justice conscientiousness perspective. Remember propaganda is a Hitler remnant.

    Until the people wake up and unite, unequivocally and intentionally, nothing will ever change in any part of this capitalist fascist society where we are all just a bunch of “peasants” and rats running around the maze sniffing for cheese that is not there.

    Give me a break bloggers, especially the narrow JR, are you from Dallas by any chance?

  • JR

    Cheuy,
    You ought to spend more time tryin’ and less time cryin’ because in this country everyone has the freedom to make a better life for themselves, just ask anyone that risks it all just to come here and try. No one owes you anything, not even Jesus Christ. You need to learn what is really important in this world, and that if you have what you NEED and not what you want, you truly have everything.

  • JR

    Hot R,
    I hate to break it to you, but experience is a great thing for doctors and lawyers, because there are so many situational variables the more experience the better. Teaching just does not have anywhere near those kind of variables(it’s actually quite redundant, teacher use the same lesson plans for years albeit modified). Just like that study said in so many words that in 3 to 5 years most teachers(if in fact there are good teaching material)will be able to do their job well. As a matter of fact there has been little evidence in the US that masters degrees make teachers more effective(some people are teaching material and some are not).

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/11/20/national/a114548S83.DTL

    http://edpro.stanford.edu/Hanushek/admin/pages/files/uploads/teachers.econometrica.pdf

    “There appear to be important gains in teaching quality in the first year of experience and smaller gains over the next few career years. However, there is little evidence that improvements continue after the first three years.” (p.449)

  • Gordon Danning

    JR: The first link you list states that 90% of teachers’ masters degrees are in education. It should come as no surprise that those degrees are next to useless. But what about those who get an MA or MS in a substantive field? Is there research that looks solely at those teachers? (Of course, it would be tough to control for other variables; you can’t just compare teachers with masters degrees in a substantive field with those with only a bachelor’s degree, because the former might be smarter, harder working, etc, than the latter)

  • JR

    Gordon,
    Some people have the ability to convey educational concepts, are able to connect to, and motivate young minds while still maintaining some semblance of discipline while other persons(even though extremely well educated) are not. Bottom line some people have what it takes to teach well and others don’t. I’m not the only one making the comparison, as you can see. “Might” is the operative word here, in the final analysis it’s about the person not the paper.

  • Gordon Danning

    JR:

    Well, of course those things are essential. But, that wasn’t my question. My question was, all things being equal, are teachers with masters’ degrees in substantive topics more effective than teachers with only a bachelor’s degree?

    It certainly seems plausible – I mean, I went to law school, and I KNOW that helps me teach American Government, in the very least because I can counter common misperceptions (including those held by most teachers) and identify places where the textbook oversimplifies or misleads. (Eg: the useless definition of “probable cause” that our Government book uses) For the same reason, it also helps me choose instructional materials. I assume there are many examples from other fields.

    So, does anyone out there know of any research on this? Katy?

  • JR

    My answer,
    Probably, but not necessarily. It depends upon the person. intellect, passion and purpose all play a part in that. Like I told nextset, the human mind and will cannot be quantified, there are many people who go beyond perceived constraints, and many who exceed perceived limitations.

  • livegreen

    Look, there are a variety of factors here. These include a minority of protected poor performing teachers (again, a minority), lack of support for good teachers, especially with parents who do not value education (& thus their kids don’t), lack of support from Admin to assist their teachers in dealing with both this & subsequent discipline, lack of support for teachers AND entire schools (not enough T/A’s, enough staff, productive outlet & exercise for kids, etc., etc., etc.).

    In addition the problems of teaching to the test -AND- an Open Court program that addresses the basics but does not make room or time for other subject areas. Including science!

    There is no one thing. However because there’s no one thing, and other things can be pointed to by anyone, this does not mean we shouldn’t start somewhere.

    -vs.- “no, it’s not this it’s that.” “no, it’s not that, it’s another this”. “no no it’s another another that thing”. “no, no it IS this”.

    Yes, it’s each one of these. So let’s start making some incremental compromise and some REAL progress. Because incremental is better than none.

    There are a lot of good teachers, principals, kids & parents out there who need our support. If we reverse or eliminate the poor performers (in all our camps) and reinforce the positive performers incremental progress will become significant.

  • Hot r

    Wow JR you really don’t know much about what happens in a classroom or a school. Each student is different has different learning needs, and the situations which can arise are actually infinite all modified by socio-economic variables and the degree of support or lack of same from the administrators, parents, taxpayers or the District or the State, the changes in educational policy, and that day’s teaching schedule. Not to mention whether the student has had a decent meal recently, has a physical condition, eyesight problem, tooth ache, language difficulty, or learning disability. The best teachers as well as the best professionals of any type are lifelong learners constantly modifying their craft to fit their student’s learning needs.

    That “study” you cite has little or no validity. I refer you to the discussion on it some months ago on Jay Mathews excellent blog, Class Struggle.

  • JR

    Hot R,
    Don’t flatter yourself, teaching can be hard(for good teachers,that is), but it is not complex. What is important at the core is the personality and psychological makeup of the teacher. Of course you think the study has no validity, you don’t agree with it(no surprise there). You need to respect teaching for what it is(there is no shame in that)it is a noble profession that can change the lives of the young people. You are experiencing a relatively new phenomenon where a considerable percentage of the parents are are as highly educated as teachers(if not more). Maybe thats why Teach for America bothers you(these “Johnny come lately” people practically just jumping in and teaching and doing pretty well). You as a teacher don’t necessarily know best anymore(relative to parents) and that bothers you, among other things. Well just be satisfied with the fact that if you are a good teacher you probably change lives, and if you are substandard teacher you are an extremely highly paid babysitter(with great benefits).

  • Hot r

    You’re right JR. The job of teacher is not complex under your standards (teaching that same old lesson plan over and over) but neither is that of a lawyer with that same old murder case over and over or the surgeon doing another routine knee operation, or even the PG&E engineer designing that same gas pipeline (whoops bad example)

    Please don’t pre-judge.
    Teach for America doesn’t bother me at all. new blood is important to keep teaching vital. Education schools do a mediocre job at best in preparing teachers for the realities of the classroom. Enthusiasm can make up for some lack of experience, but just like in war, you had better listen to the veterans if you want to stick around. All the studies I have seen show that Teach For America teachers have a high attrition rate. And I have plenty of highly educated parents who immediately recognize good teaching when they see it, although believe it or not, so can less well educated parents. Even you acknowledge it in several posts. But in your zeal to make your point you overstate your argument. Happy Thanksgiving.

  • JR

    Hot R ,
    Happy Thanksgiving, and keep being a great teacher, because that is what this city,state and country are in dire need of. We see too many that are over-matched or just oblivious.

  • JR

    The point I was trying to make about TFA is that they bring something special to the table that should be replicated in all schools(passion to teach and the wish to make a difference). Money wont fix the schools, a change in attitude will go a long way toward that goal. I have witnessed what I call revival at a one time low performing school whose new principal was determined to clear out the teachers who were “mailing it in” and some who just didn’t want to be there, and then instituted a whole series of “family math night”, “family reading night”, “parent tutoring” and turned the school into a source of strength for that community, and the API scores jumped because learning became fun and the whole family was involved. This is what we need,real change away from status quo.