Thursday, June 3, 2010

Volunteer Teacher Contract in DC Bases Pay on Performance, Not Seniority

Tags: Volunteer Teacher Contract DC, No Tenure First Year, Pay on Performance, Contract Signed, Rhee, Buyout for Retiring, New Evaluation System,

My hope is this new imperfect system will point out that the quality of teachers we get depends importantly on how much pay they get and whether teacher evaluations indeed are able to pick quality teachers in the eyes of both administrators and teachers.

Jim Kawakami, June 03, 2010,

Washington Post Bill Turque June 03, 2010 Excerpt: The highlights

A voluntary performance pay program to begin this fall could add $20,000 to $30,000 to D.C. teachers' salaries, based on significant improvement in student test scores and other yet-to-be specified criteria. The system, to be financed for the first three years under a controversial arrangement with private foundations approved by District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, could raise total compensation for some instructors to $140,000, officials estimate. Although cities such as Denver have had incentive pay programs for several years, none promise the kind of money that Rhee says she is prepared to pay. For teachers who enter the plan, it means no longer having to invest 10 to 15 years in a lockstep pay schedule to command a significant income.

The contract -- in tandem with a new teacher evaluation system that will use growth in test scores as one benchmark -- will also dilute job security for some educators. It allows principals to use job performance, instead of seniority, as the chief determinant when reducing staff because of declining enrollment or program changes.

Under a "mutual consent" clause, displaced teachers who used to be assigned to new schools -- whether principals wanted them or not -- will no longer be guaranteed spots in the system and must find administrators willing to take them. Teachers with good evaluations who are unable to find a job have a year's grace period, at full pay, to continue the search. They can also opt for a $25,000 buyout or early retirement with full benefits if they have 20 or more years of service.

Both sides nevertheless expressed satisfaction with the final version of the accord.

"I am very pleased with the contract," Rhee said. "It strikes a great balance between making teachers understand that we very much value and support the work they do every day and on the administrative side giving us the tools we need to staff the schools effectively." Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker called it "a great day for teachers and students." …

Weingarten and union negotiators scuttled Rhee's original proposal for a two-tier plan that would have forced teachers seeking top pay levels to relinquish tenure for a year, exposing them to dismissal without the right to appeal. Rhee's plan would have required new teachers to select the higher-risk salary track.

But Rhee negotiated away relatively little of what she sought. Tenure -- granted to eligible teachers in the District after two years and assailed by Rhee as the "holy grail" of unions -- was left technically intact. But it was redefined to affirm that it is only a due-process mechanism to protect against unfair dismissal, not a guarantee of a lifetime employment.

The accord and the evaluation system give Rhee a formidable toolbox of personnel and policy rules that supporters say could help dramatically improve teaching and learning. The mutual consent provision, for example, has potentially significant implications should Rhee decide to replace or "reconstitute" some or all of the staffs at schools deemed to be failing under the federal No Child Left Behind law, something she has done in previous years. …

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