Dear Commons Community,
School reformers and others around the country are praising the Newark Teachers Union for approving a new contract that includes a collectively-bargained merit pay system. A New York Times editorial commented:
“Newark and its teachers’ union deserve praise for the groundbreaking contract that the two sides have hammered out. The relatively calm negotiations that led up to the union’s ratification vote this week stood in sharp contrast to the vitriol that surrounded a similar agreement earlier this year in Chicago that led to a polarizing strike.
The need to improve teacher performance has long been evident in Newark, whose perennially troubled schools do a particularly poor job of preparing its 37,000 students for higher education. According to the district, for example, the graduation rate is nearly 62 percent. But almost 90 percent of Newark Public School students who enter Essex County College, a community college, need remedial help in English and nearly all need remedial help in math.
Despite this grim picture, school officials say, the current teacher evaluation system — based on haphazard observations by administrators — rates 95 percent of the district’s teachers as “effective.” The new contract, which raises starting and midlevel salaries, includes a rigorous evaluation process that takes student achievement into account.
The new system will enable the district to reward and retain high-performing teachers and furnish extra help for those who are struggling to master what is clearly a difficult profession.
A pay-for-performance component of the new contract allows teachers who are rated highly effective to earn annual bonuses of up $12,500 if they work in low-performing schools and teach in subject areas that are difficult to staff.
Raises will be withheld from ineffective teachers until they improve. Those who do not improve can be removed under a state law passed earlier this year. The improvements under the new contract are estimated to cost $100 million over five years..”
Congratulations to Newark teachers and their union leadership.