Make us your home page


Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Arne Duncan praises Hillsborough for a new reason: labor relations



TAMPA -- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered kind words Thursday on Hillsborough's seven-year, $202 million reform partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation during a visit to the district.

But what might be of interest beyond Florida is the way in which he hopes to make it an example: as a place where labor and management can get things done. He announced a winter conference on the topic in Washington, with Hillsborough in a starring role. And he said district officials would have plenty of company.

“In dozens of districts around the country -- from Tampa to Pittsburgh to Denver -- union leaders and administrators are moving beyond the battles of the past and finding new ways to work together to focus on student success,” Duncan said. “These districts show us what is possible when adults come together, particularly in tough times, to do the right thing for kids. We need to learn from these successful collaborative efforts and build upon them across the country.”

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see this as a potential course correction in the Obama Administration's education reform effort -- away away from the top-down, imposed style unions objected to during last spring's flap over Senate Bill 6 or Florida's ill-fated initial bid for Race to the Top money, and toward a more collaborative approach.

More on the Washington conference from the Department of Education statement this afternoon:

"The conference will include the participation of national, state, and local union leadership as well as school superintendants and school boards from across the country. Additional details to come. The call for a national conference on labor-management collaboration comes on the heels of several progressive labor-management agreements across the country. Including:

•       In BALTIMORE, the district and the teachers union have tentatively agreed to a new contract that revolutionizes the teacher salary schedule, paying teachers not just for step increases but for learning and doing the things necessary to achieve great outcomes for their students. It also creates a mechanism for school based decision making involving labor and management

•       In DELAWARE, Diane Donohue, president of the Delaware Education Association, played a pivotal leadership role in the state’s winning Race to the Top application, which included: 100 percent participation of the state’s unions; a new state law on teacher/principal effectiveness based in part on student growth; financial incentives help more equitably distribute effective teaching talent; and greater union collaboration and involvement in school turnaround efforts.

•       NEW HAVEN, CONN., ratified a new four-year contract that stresses labor-management collaboration. It provides for a new teacher evaluation system that considers student-learning gains along with other measures in assessing and informing teacher performance, identifies and provides interventions for struggling teachers through a peer-assistance and review program and brings labor and management together to make school-based decisions.

•       In DENVER, the Math and Science Leadership Academy, designed and run by teachers, uses collaborative peer planning time to analyze data and figure out how to better meet the academic needs of students. Sixty percent of MSLA students are English language learners and close to 90 percent receive free or reduced-price lunches. The school aims to attract and retain accomplished teachers in math and science, and so far, the strategy appears to be working. MSLA has been receiving 30 applications for each teaching position.

•       In PITTSBURGH, Pittsburgh Public Schools’ new five-year teacher contract includes Empowering Effective Teachers, a pay-for-performance program that could earn teachers up to $8,000 extra a year.  The performance pay program is voluntary for existing teachers, but creates a separate pay scale based on performance for new teachers. The contract also includes bonuses for schools that reach certain benchmarks, bonuses for district achievement and extra money for teachers who enter career ladder positions that include additional responsibilities.

•       In EVANSVILLE, IND., educators concluded that low-performing schools needed a different approach.  In partnership with the school district, the union developed the Evansville Equity Schools Project. The project includes a professional development academy that provides top-notch training for teachers in the three lowest-performing schools. Teachers can’t teach at the schools unless they attend the academy, take 40 hours of training on Saturdays and pass an examination.

•       In DETROIT, the school district and union have forged an agreement that establishes a model for teacher compensation that rewards successful school-wide performance and identifies and turns around struggling schools.

•       In MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD., district and union leaders have developed evaluation systems that incorporate evidence of student learning, including student test scores and peer reviews. Under the system, highly effective teachers help other teachers improve their practice."

[Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010 4:58pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours