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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Union chief sees more teacher support for new Race to the Top agreement



In the first go-round, just five of 67 Florida school teacher unions backed the state's application for a federal Race to the Top education reform grant. The application failed.

Round 2 likely will generate different results, Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association president Kim Black tells the Gradebook, because this time, the Florida Department of Education is listening to teachers as it crafts a new proposal.

"The most important thing is that we had a seat at the table," said Black, a member of Gov. Crist's RTTT working group, which met for more than 12 hours Wednesday. "I think that voice was heard. ... I think we came up with an acceptable product."

One key agreement modified the way in which student performance will impact teacher evaluations. It still would be counted as 50 percent of the review, but the definition of "student performance" won't depend so heavily on test results in the new model. A portion would be based on locally bargained criteria.

Another critical change came in the decision to allow school districts to target RTTT reforms at struggling schools and their feeder patterns, rather than having to spread them across all schools. Such a change should make the grant money - $14 million over four years in Pinellas - more meaningful, Black suggested.

"I kept bringing that up," she said. "How thin are we going to stretch this money?"

The negotiations also protected impasse proceedings, Black said. In Round 1, many union leaders refused to agree to the memorandum of understanding because it locked them into negotiations on issues they did not support, which then could be imposed on them through Florida's bargaining laws. This deal offers greater protections, Black said.

"I think teachers will be pleased with the outcome," she said.

The new memorandum is expected to be posted on the governor's Race to the Top website Thursday afternoon. Districts will be asked to return it to the state DOE by May 25 if they want to participate in the initiatives.


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:00am]


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