the final hours

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

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
UFT President Michael Mulgrew speaks about teacher attrition patterns earlier this year.

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.

Check back, and follow @ChalkbeatNY on Twitter, for the latest news on contract talks and New York City schools.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.