Career ladder, fewer eval metrics, and face time with parents in teacher contract, sources say

Retroactive raises aren’t the only perks awaiting teachers in a contract deal being finalized between the United Federation of Teachers and the city, sources say.

The deal will also include a chance for teachers to earn higher salaries in exchange for taking on leadership roles, according to a source. The compensation system, known as a career ladder, would be a big shift from a lockstep pay system that’s been in place for most of the contract’s six-decade history.

The career ladder is one of several changes expected when the UFT and the city announce agreement on a teachers contract—the first since their last deal expired in 2009. Several news outlets are reporting a deal could be announced as early as Thursday.

Two other major changes expected in the new contract involve teacher evaluations and the way that the school day is divided.

Principals will have to rate teachers on significantly fewer items when they observe teachers, a change that would reduce the amount of work involved in classroom observations. Chalkbeat reported last month that Chancellor Carmen Fariña had openly supported the idea, which the UFT opposed during last year’s negotiations.

The deal will also add more time into the school year for professional development and for teachers to meet with parents. To find that time in the 6.5-hour school day, schools will eliminate the 37.5 minutes allotted for tutoring academically struggling students four times a week, a provision that was negotiated into the 2005 contract.

Career ladders are in currently place in about 80 middle schools, but paid for with federal Teacher Incentive Fund grants. Under that model, some teachers are paid more for working to coach newer teachers, develop curriculum and take on other leadership roles.

It’s unclear how, and how many, teachers will be promoted under the career ladder. Some districts, including Washington, D.C. and Denver, have adopted compensation systems that tie promotions to performance. Some models also allow teachers to opt into the new system, or stay in the traditional pay scale, in which teacher pay is based on years of experience and level of education.

The union has supported a career ladder model that is not tied to student performance metrics in the past. In an interview with Chalkbeat last year, UFT President Michael Mulgrew described the kind of career ladder system that he’d like see.

“We want a career ladder for teachers that starts when they’re brand new that gets them more support on the practices—classroom management is the biggest issue for any new teachers—moving all the way up to a master teacher, someone who can help the new ones,” Mulgrew said. “That’s where we’re going to go. That’s been a contract demand we’ve had throughout this contract fight.”

It’s still unclear how much teachers will receive in retroactive pay for the five years they’ve been without a contract. The union’s priority has been securing 4 percent raises for the first two years, which would cost the city $3.4 billion.

Another major issue is what the contract will do with more than 1,000 teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, who are without full-time jobs while still on the city’s payroll. A source told Chalkbeat that a weekly rotation of ATR teachers, in place since 2011, will be eliminated. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that teachers in the pool will return to schools to fill vacancies if they have the right credentials, but principals will be able to quickly remove them under an expedited appeal process.

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