Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Klein, Weingarten, and the Door Shut on Individual Merit Pay. Huzuh??

If you've been following the incentive pay goings-on in New York City you'll know that the AFT's Randi Weingarten and NYC's Joel Klein and M. Bloomberg have reached an historic agreement regarding incentive pay for teachers. But depending on who you read or who you talk to the two groups are trumpeting different triumphs.

Klein for his part is touting the proposal's benefit for individual students, not to mention channeling the late Albert Shanker and hometown hero on 555 NJ Ave. Weingarten is clear about her position on merit pay. In a UFT press release she states, "School-wide bonuses properly refocus the misguided debate over individual merit pay."

But the terms of the agreement--largely a compromise to recoup significant back pay for retirees--are still somewhat about individual merit pay. Not all teachers are guaranteed merit pay, even under the whole school model as it is currently designed. UFT's press release states "Options include giving all staff the same amount or varying amounts based on their role in the school's improvement, but every UFT staff member is presumed to receive some bonus." I don't know about you but presumed doesn't instill a lot of confidence in me. And when the first teacher that gets a $1 bonus udner the incentive play plan writes a letter to the NYTimes we'll see if the spirit of togetherness rings true.

Weingarten is even quoted in the NYTimes, “This shuts the door on the individual merit pay plans that I abhor.”

It's AFT policy that they support collectively bargained incentive pay agreements--the organization gets misquoted a lot on this and often lumped in with the NEA who do not share the same view on incentive pay. AFT prefers using the method folks in NY are about to establish--whole school improvement equals bonus pay. Afterall it doesn't take the world's best argument to understand that learning, and thusly measurements of learning are not stochastic. Any number of teachers and factors over several years contributes to the development of child.

To Ms. Weingarten. I'm not so sure this does shut the door. I guess we'll see it play out in the details.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bloomberg's Reforms for NYC 2.0

Mayor Michael Bloomberg is at it again proposing further reforms for New York City schools. In the works this time are more autonomy for principals and more a equitable funding scheme. The other major proposal involves pension negotiations. Currently Albany sets pensions for NYC teachers. Bloomberg would make pension decisions a part of the regular NYC contract negotiations. The New York Times quotes Bloomberg, "It’s time for Albany to stop playing Santa Claus with the city’s money."

The first two reforms in Bloomberg's package could help some. Words of caution about the first measure to grant hiring and tenure authority to building level leaders: you can give these principals a lot more power, but you better make sure they are dynamic, dynamite, and conscientious leaders who can balance the sometimes incongruous demands of providing exceptional support for their teachers, making sure student needs are being met, and responding to parents and community concerns. In short, firing and hiring of principals must happen first before the firing and hiring of teachers.

Regarding the other reform, equitable distributions of funding by factoring experienced teachers salaries into the equation. This one has been too long overlooked. A fine report by the Education Trust, California’s Hidden Teacher Spending Gap: How State and District Budgeting Practices Shortchange Poor and Minority Students and Their Schools also suggests this approach to school funding is long overdue.

As for pension negotiations set by the city, that would take some work and approval by Albany. Not going to happen, EE odds 7/2.

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