promotion policy

Few teachers see raises through contract's paid leadership roles, so far

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Chancellor Carmen Fariña talked to staff at P.S. 295 on Monday.

Principal Eileen Reiter wishes she could give all of her best teachers the raises she thinks they deserve.

That’s not possible under New York City’s traditional teacher pay system, which is based on experience and education credits. But Reiter’s school, P.S. 112 in East Harlem, did become eligible this summer to boost pay for some teachers by $7,500 as part of a program created by the new city teachers union contract.

Reiter said it’s a good start, but not enough for her school, where all teachers were rated “effective” or better on last year’s evaluations and six teachers applied for three available “model teacher” spots.

“I have so many teachers who could have been model teachers,” said Reiter, who added that it has been challenging to describe the compensation change at her school. “The way I explained it to the staff is that it’s not an award. It’s a lot of extra work. And it’s just for one year.”

P.S. 112 has had more leeway than most, as one of just 24 schools eligible to give the raises to teachers when the school year began. The limited rollout of the paid leadership positions, to less than 2 percent of the school system, initially, is emblematic of how cautious the city is being in implementing a new pay model that departs significantly from the way city teachers have been paid for decades.

When the city and the United Federation of Teachers first announced that three different leadership positions had been created by their contract agreement in May, officials said they would serve as tools to keep top teachers in the classroom by offering bonuses of between $7,500 and $20,000 for work teachers were already largely doing for free.

“How do we make sure that these schools, and people who are doing extraordinary work, are also given some compensation for the work that they’re doing?” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said then.

The program is set to expand over the next few weeks. Earlier this month, the city opened up the applications for two of the positions to teachers in another 175 schools, many of which are already taking part in other new education initiatives like the Learning Partners program and PROSE schools. Also eligible are schools in East Harlem’s District 4 and Brooklyn’s District 23, which officials said were chosen for their concentrations of high-need students and interested superintendents. Race to the Top grant money is simultaneously being used to fund the leadership positions in a small group of Bronx high schools, officials said.

So far, officials said they have received 500 applications from 150 schools, although some teachers applied for more than one job.

All three of the new positions offer more pay for specific additional responsibilities and additional time on the job. Those responsibilities are the major difference between New York’s changes and compensation systems established in recent years in other cities, such as Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., where teacher bonuses have been tied directly to performance evaluations or based on student test scores.

For example, the city’s new “model teacher” position requires teachers to use their classrooms to demonstrate lessons and new teaching techniques. They will work an extra two days during the summer and two hours a month during the school year, and be freed from teaching some number of periods each week for that work.

The “ambassador” teacher position, which won’t be offered this year, requires teachers to leave their school for a year and work elsewhere in the same borough in addition to doing extra work during the school year and summer. “Master” teachers, who receive a $20,000 salary increase, will continue to teach in their schools but will be expected to coordinate teacher training, coach other teachers, and serve as a leader on “school teacher teams.”

Academy for Careers in Television and Film Principal Edgar Rodriguez said getting money to promote top teachers at the a small high school in Queens was “a great way to legitimize” jobs that he had been delegating since he took over nearly two years ago.

“Whether or not the roles formally existed, I had a number of teachers who were leaders,” he said.

But the promotions haven’t been universally embraced. After being notified that they were eligible earlier this month, entire staffs at least two schools agreed that they wouldn’t apply.

“This is a highly collaborative and democratic staff and it would be detrimental to our staff culture to elevate a small number of people when everyone is participating,” said Julie Zuckerman, principal of P.S. 513 in Washington Heights. P.S. 321 in Park Slope also declined to participate, Principal Elizabeth Phillips said.

Teachers at some eligible schools argued that pay bumps for one or two teachers aren’t the best way to spend money, since the city has only offered to pick up the tab for the bonuses this year. Rosie Frascella, a teacher at International High School at Prospect Heights, said she did not plan to apply for the model or master teacher positions.

“In my school right now, there’s not a lot of money for after-school programs, and it’s kind of a waste of money to give one teacher an extra $20,000 to be a master teacher,” said Frascella.

In some ways, the new positions are an expansion of similar programs that have been scattered across city schools for years. There is already a federally-funded career ladder program in its second year at 75 middle schools, while the city’s “lead teachers” program extends to 250 teachers in 170 schools who earn an extra $10,000 each to do much of the same work that the new “model teachers” will do.

Supporters of alternative compensation systems say New York City’s contract doesn’t go far enough. To qualify for the raises, teachers need to be rated “effective” or “highly effective,” which TNTP President Tim Daly criticized as too low a bar.

“In the big picture, the contract reflects, from a compensation perspective, a commitment to the existing system,” Daly said.

Union officials say they are betting that the rewards for doing specific extra work won’t damage their long-held position that teacher pay shouldn’t be tied to measures of teacher quality. They also said a careful rollout would ensure the program is successful.

“If it’s done right in an equitable fashion, we have the ability to build capacity within our ranks,” said UFT Vice President Karen Alford, who served on the union’s negotiating committee. “It’s about making sure that people who are clearly leaders within our schools are recognized.”

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.