Yasmeen Khan is a reporter covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
What de Blasio's Contract Deal Means for Teachers
Friday, May 02, 2014 - 04:00 AM
The new teacher contract, announced Thursday by Mayor Bill de Blasio, includes wage increases and back pay, a streamlined teacher evaluation process and time built into the school day for professional development and parent engagement.
Speaking at City Hall, de Blasio said the agreement was negotiated in an "atmosphere of partnership and respect." Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and union president Michael Mulgrew even hugged.
Here are some highlights from the agreement that make union and city leaders happy enough to embrace:
Wage increase. Teachers will receive 18 percent in raises, including retroactive pay, over the course of the nine-year contract. Educators will also receive a one-time signing bonus of $1,000 once the agreement is ratified by union members.
The agreement also includes more opportunities for pay through a career ladder. Teachers could apply for "model" or "master" positions to mentor colleagues.
Tweaks to the teacher evaluation system. The agreement aims to lift some of the cumbersome details of the teacher evaluation process, by allowing principals to evaluate teachers according to a more limited version of the observation rubric, known as the Danielson Framework for Teaching. Instead of evaluating teachers according to all 22 components of the rubric, principals will focus on eight elements related to learning in the classroom.
Also, the city and union both said teachers in non-testing grades and subjects, such as the arts, would only be graded on the performance of students they actually teach. But it's not yet clear how this would work.
Excessed Teachers. About 1,200 teachers who lack permanent positions are in a pool known as the Absent Teacher Reserve, which costs the city roughly $100 million each year.
Fariña said that the Department of Education would interview teachers in the pool and send them to schools where there are vacancies. The principal has final say, said Fariña, over whether or not to keep the teacher on staff and would be empowered to make that decision even after one day.
There is no limit, however, to how long a teacher would be allowed to remain in the "reserve" pool. Some groups have criticized the contract for not doing more to whittle down the pool.
More parent engagement. Through a pilot program, teachers will be able to dedicate 40 minutes each week to hold meetings with parents or spend time reaching out to them. There are also changes to parent-teacher conferences: they would double from two to four conferences each school year, and these meetings would increase in length to three hours.
More built-in time for professional development. The city would do away with an extra 37.5 minute period to help struggling students, an item that was part of the 2005 contract. Instead, the contract would reconfigure that time to give teachers more professional development each week, such as establishing a block of time for peer-to-peer learning, something Fariña has made a priority since she became Chancellor.
Pilot project for school innovation. Under the agreement, up to 200 schools could apply for a chance to try new initiatives, like reworking the school day and year or giving teachers more say in hiring decisions.
Initial reaction from parent and teacher groups was generally positive. The group United Parents of Highbridge said it "couldn't be more pleased" that the contract deal put "more focus on teaching and learning."
The New York City Coalition for Educational Justice said the contract ended the "era of vilifying teachers."
Beth Brady, a special education teacher in Manhattan, said initial highlights of the contract were a "breath of fresh air."
"After teaching my entire career under the Bloomberg administration, I can't tell you how respected this contract makes me feel," she said.
Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the group Educators 4 Excellence, also said "there is much for teachers to celebrate in the new contract" but withheld a full endorsement until seeing the fine print.