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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”