BPS and the leadership of the Boston Teachers Union have met twenty times since beginning negotiations on a new teachers contract nearly one year ago. The most recent day-long bargaining session was on Friday. Our Acceleration Agenda will ensure that every child has a great teacher and every school is outstanding. Here are our priorities:
1. We’re calling for a longer school day and more teacher development time. Our students spend less time in class and our teachers have less professional development time than almost any district in the nation.
The school district is asking for an extension of the school day and work year without providing any additional compensation. It is an often-repeated distortion that we spend less time in professional development than almost any other district in the nation. The study that the superintendent is relying on did not include the annual 18 PD hours nor does it include the amount of additional time spent in pilot schools, extended learning time schools, turnaround schools, Horace Mann Charter schools, and the McKinley Schools.
Were all of these omissions properly calculated, properly weighted, and factored in, our place in the national standing which shift dramatically. What’s more, it presents a false picture to look at time spent in school as the amount of time from bell to bell. Everyone knows that the true measure of a teacher’s workday is not calculated bell to bell. Any true look at a teacher day must include all time spent in preparation, meetings, PD, lesson planning, student consultation, and so on. To not mention so degrades our profession and minimizes what we do.
2. We’re calling for a streamlined evaluation system that helps good teachers become great and looks at whether students are actually learning. We use MCAS as one measure of student progress. We should also use it to measure ourselves.
On the negotiating table are a host of issues designed to improve teaching and learning. We support improving our schools, and we agree that many factors contribute to helping our students learn. The school apartment’s exclusive- and quite narrow – focus has been to streamline the evaluation system. Our main focus has been on helping teachers who need help and making the evaluation system fairer. We also have raised a series of other issues, like installing a targeted reading program in every school and lowering class size in schools that need help. The school district has no apparent interest in either of these issues.
Lastly, we do not agree that we should use the MCAS to measure ourselves. It is a test that is supposed to measure student progress, and it was never intended to measure teacher progress. Student progress can be measured — and should be measured — by a host of indicators, not just a single standardized test. A teacher’s effectiveness can only be measured by a wide and varied system of measures as well.
3. We want our principals and headmasters to have a say in who teaches in their schools and how classes are scheduled to better serve students. Today, teachers can move from one school to another without ever meeting their new principal; and principals lack flexibility to adjust class schedules to meet student needs.
This is a flat-out distortion. Principals and headmasters have a say in who teaches in the school if they wish to take advantage of the many opportunities. Most vacancies – in fact, the overwhelming majority of vacancies – are filled exclusively by principals, who have complete control over whom they hire. To the extent principals and headmasters do not ‘meet’ an incoming teacher, that is their fault.
In both reassignment processes — transfer and excessing –principals have the authority to schedule interviews, which 99% of our teachers want. The problem, if there is one, lies with principals who don’t participate in this activity.
Here’s an example: Two weeks ago the school district scheduled a job fair for teachers from schools that are about to be closed. The activity was held in English High School and many eager teachers attended to try do find a suitable assignment for next year. Only 40% of the affected principals bothered to show up, according to our estimate. That was a lost opportunity to meet these teachers. And whose fault was that?
4. We believe new teachers deserve higher salaries, but big raises should never be automatic. Evaluations, feedback from parents and students, and professionalism in the classroom should be expected, not optional. We believe excellence should be recognized and rewarded. The Boston Municipal Research Bureau released an extensive report on our current salary structure this winter. Read “The Real Cost of the Contract” here.
The superintendent’s proposal is to eliminate automatic step increases for teachers in their first nine years. That’s what she’s referring to when she mentions ‘big raises.’
We also believe excellence and extraordinary effort should be recognized and rewarded, and we have proposed that the district set up a mechanism, a career path, to give teachers added responsibility and additional compensation. Unlike the Superintendent, however, we do not want to eliminate step increases or Salary Lane adjustments for added academic attainment.
Dr. Johnson will present an overview of our priorities at a community forum this Wednesday night from 5:30-8pm at Twelfth Baptist Church, 160 Warren St., in Roxbury. The forum is hosted by Boston United for Students, a collaboration of more than 40 community groups that have joined together to push for important reforms in the BTU contract.
It is not a ‘BTU’ Contract. It is a ‘BTU-BPS’ contract. Both sides agreed to it and both sides signed it. In fact, the School District and Mayor Menino, along with the BTU, held a joint press conference four years ago to announce its terms. It is a joint contract whose terms are responsible for having one of the best urban school districts in the nation as measured by the NAEP test.