breaking

Breaking: Union site announces new contract deal, including full retro pay

Updated, 3:30 p.m. — “The wait is over!”

That’s how the United Federation of Teachers has announced details around the tentative contract agreement it has reached with the city.

The announcement was posted on its website Thursday before the union and City Hall began spreading the news. Since then, the union restricted access to that page and the mayor’s office scheduled a press conference for 4 p.m.

The nine-year deal will last until October 2018, and salaries for UFT members will increase 18 percent over that period, according to the UFT’s announcement. The deal includes full retroactive pay for the years since the union last had a contract, and health benefits and pensions will be “preserved” at the same levels, the announcement says. Union members will get a $1,000 signing bonus when the deal is ratified, the release adds.

The deal will also include a path for teachers to earn higher salaries in exchange for taking on leadership roles, which Chalkbeat described Thursday. This “career ladder” compensation system would represent a major shift from the union’s longtime lockstep pay system. The UFT announcement says the new system will “foster idea-sharing by allowing exemplary teachers to remain teachers while extending their reach to help others.”

The union said the deal contains “major changes” that make teacher evaluations “simpler and fairer.” Now, teachers will be rated based on eight components of an observation rubric, rather than the current 22 — a shift that Chancellor Carmen Fariña has endorsed and the union has previously opposed. In addition, there will be a “a better system for rating teachers in non-tested subjects” and teachers will not have to submit unit plans, family newsletters, and other “artifacts” as part of the evaluation process, the UFT said. Also, when teachers are rated ineffective, other educators will be brought in to review their work rather than “consultants or other third parties,” the announcement said.

Educators will also face far less “unnecessary and duplicative paperwork, both written and electronic,” the union added.

The Daily News reported some wins for the city that the UFT did not trumpet, such as a streamlined process for terminating teachers accused of sexual misconduct and a change to the the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers who are on the city’s payroll but lack a teaching position. Under the deal, those teachers would get tryout periods at schools, after which they would be subject to an expedited termination hearing if the schools’ principals do not approve of their performance, the Daily News reports.

The UFT’s release doesn’t say how the pay raises will be spread out over time, but the Daily News article says that members will receive lump payments over “multiple years.”

The deal must still be approved by the Municipal Labor Committee, the joint group of city unions. Some members of that group have reportedly expressed concerns that the city will fund the teachers’ back pay with savings from health-care benefit concessions that it is seeking from the unions, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Here are some other highlights from the UFT’s announcement on Thursday:

Time and tools

“Finally, the agreement gives educators more time to carry out their professional responsibilities without adding any new time to the work day. The 150 minutes of extended time can be reconfigured in a variety of ways to build in more time for professional work, professional development and parent engagement.

The proposed agreement also obligates the DOE to provide educators in core subjects with appropriate curriculum, something which we have long fought for.”

Teacher leadership and voice

Under the tentative deal, collaborative school communities will have new opportunities to innovate outside the confines of the UFT contract and DOE regulations. A new program known as Progressive Redesign Opportunity Schools for Excellence (PROSE) will give educators in participating schools greater voice in decision-making and a chance to experiment with new strategies.”

And UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s letter:

Dear Colleagues,

The wait is over! Earlier today we reached a tentative contract agreement with the Department of Education that recognizes the hard work that we do every day in the classroom and restores the dignity of our profession after years of abuse.

It is a contract for educators but, of equal importance, it is also a contract for education that will not only benefit us but also the students, schools and communities we serve.

Working in partnership with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Farina, we now have the opportunity to rebuild our city’s school system with educators — not bureaucrats or consultants — in the driver’s seat. Our agreement is the product of a shared belief that it is our school communities that must be the agents of change and that, when we educators are empowered to use our professional expertise, we can solve our common challenges and develop new ways to improve outcomes for our students.

Our proposed agreement, which is pending Municipal Labor Committee approval and ratification by the membership, includes the pay increases we deserve after working for five years without a contract — without a single raise.

Below are the highlights.

Sincerely,

Michael Mulgrew

Want the latest NYC education news? Follow Chalkbeat New York on Facebook

a 'meaningful' education?

How a Colorado court case could change how public schools everywhere serve students with special needs

Dougco headquarters in Castle Rock (John Leyba/The Denver Post).

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday grappled with the question of what kind of education public schools must provide students with disabilities, hearing arguments in a case that originated with a complaint against a suburban Denver school district and that could have profound implications nationwide.

The case involves a student diagnosed with autism and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder. His parents pulled him out of his Douglas County elementary school, saying he wasn’t making enough progress and the district’s response was lacking.

They enrolled the boy in a private school for children with autism and asked the district to reimburse them for the tuition, arguing their son was due a “free appropriate public education” as required by the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The law spells out the requirements states must meet to receive federal money to educate special-needs students. The district declined, saying it had met the standard of the law.

The family eventually filed a lawsuit against the district. Lower courts all sided with the district, reasoning that it had provided the child “some” educational benefit — the standard cited in the federal statute at issue.

Lower courts across the nation have varied in their definition of the proper standard. The high court arguments Wednesday centered on whether “some” benefit was good enough, or whether special-needs students deserve a more “meaningful” benefit.

Jeffrey Fisher, an attorney for the boy’s family, told the justices that as a general rule, individualized education plans for special education students should include “a level of educational services designed to allow the child to progress from grade to grade in the general curriculum.”

Throughout the arguments, the justices expressed frustration with what Justice Samuel Alito described as “a blizzard of words” that the law and courts have used to define what’s appropriate for special needs students.

Chief Justice John Roberts said regardless of the term used, “the whole package has got to be helpful enough to allow the student to keep up with his peers.”

Neal Katyal, an attorney for the school district, argued that providing children “some benefit” is a reasonable standard.

“That’s the way court after court has interpreted it,” he said. “It’s worked well. This court shouldn’t renege on that.”

Ron Hager, senior staff attorney for special education at the National Disability Rights Network, attended the oral arguments Wednesday and said he was optimistic the lower court’s ruling would be overturned.

He said if the Supreme Court does overturn the federal Tenth Circuit Court’s ruling and requires a higher standard, it won’t necessarily come with major financial costs for school districts. Instead, he said, it will nudge them to be proactive and provide teacher training and intervention services early on instead of waiting until problems — and the expenses associated with them — snowball later.

Marijo Rymer, executive director of the Arc of Colorado, which advocates on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said she was heartened to see the case advance to the Supreme Court. Establishing a clearer standard on what constitutes a fair and appropriate education for students with disabilities is a civil rights issue, she said.

“It’s critical that federal law, which is what this is based on, be reinforced and supported, and the court is in the position to deliver that message to the nation’s schools and the taxpayers that fund them,” Rymer said.

Both Hager and Rymer acknowledged that even if the Supreme Court establishes a new, higher standard, it could be open to interpretation. Still, they said it would send a strong message to school districts about their responsibilities to students with disabilities.

Summer remix

Ten stories you may have missed this summer (and should read now as the new school year kicks in)

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Gabrielle Colburn, 7, adds her artistic flair to a mural in downtown Memphis in conjunction with the XQ Super Schools bus tour in June.

Labor Day used to signal the end of summer break and the return to school. That’s no longer the case in Tennessee, but the long holiday is a good time to catch up on all that happened over the summer. Here are 10 stories to get you up to speed on K-12 education in Tennessee and its largest school district.

TNReady is back — with a new test maker.

Last school year ended on a cliffhanger, with the State Department of Education canceling its end-of-year tests for grades 3-8 in the spring and firing testmaker Measurement Inc. after a series of missteps. In July, Commissioner Candice McQueen announced that Minnesota-based Questar will pick up where Measurement Inc. left off. She also outlined the state’s game plan for standardized tests in the coming year.

But fallout over the state’s failed TNReady test in 2015-16 will be felt for years.

The one-year void in standardized test scores has hit Tennessee at the heart of its accountability system, leaving the state digging for other ways to assess whether all of its students are improving.

Speaking of accountability, Tennessee also is updating that plan under a new federal education law.

The state Department of Education has been working with educators, policymakers and community members on new ways to evaluate schools in answer to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which requires states to judge schools by non-academic measures as well as test scores.

Meanwhile, issues of race and policing have educators talking about how to foster conversations about social justice in school.

In the wake of police-related killings that rocked the nation, five Memphis teachers talked about how they tackle difficult conversations about race all year long.

School closures made headlines again in Memphis — with more closings likely.

Closing schools has become an annual event as Tennessee’s largest district loses students and funding, and this year was no exception. The shuttering of Carver and Northside high schools brought the total number of district-run school closures to at least 21 since 2012. And more are likely. This month, Shelby County Schools is scheduled to release a facilities analysis that should set the stage for future closures. Superintendent Dorsey Hopson has said the district needs to shed as many as two dozen schools — and 27,000 seats — over the next four years. A Chalkbeat analysis identifies 25 schools at risk.

Exacerbating the challenges of shifting enrollment, families in Foote Homes scrambled to register their children for school as Memphis’ last public housing project prepared to close this month amid a delay in delivering housing vouchers to move elsewhere.

The new school year has officially begun, with the budget approved not a moment too soon for Shelby County Schools.

District leaders that began the budget season facing an $86 million shortfall eventually convinced county commissioners to significantly increase local funding, while also pulling some money from the school system’s reserve funds. The result is a $959 million budget that gives most of the district’s teachers a 3 percent raise and restores funding for positions deemed critical for continued academic progress.

The district also unveiled its first annual report on its growing sector of charter schools.

With charter schools now firmly entrenched in Memphis’ educational landscape, a Shelby County Schools analysis shows a mixed bag of performance, while calling on traditional and charter schools to learn from each other and promising better ways to track quality.