We received an overview of the proposed new contract, but I am looking forward to reading the details. I have a few questions that need to be answered.
1. Involvement of School Stakeholders
- Fortunately, contract language increases the involvement of LSRTs and other school-based committees in school management decisions. Will teachers, parents, and others in the school community have a real say in improving the school?
- Will these changes be enforced or remain on paper like previous attempts at school community involvement?
- How will the changes ensure that LSRTs have meaningful input in decision making at all schools?
2. Merit Pay
- Although the merit pay program is voluntary, why would we, as educators, reinforce the idea that tying teacher pay to student achievement will lead to improved teaching?
- Is there clear evidence that merit pay increases student achievement?
- What will be used to accurately determine student progress and achievement in the classroom?
- Will this lead to more teaching to the test or pruning of poor performing students from classes?
- Too many students are already "dumped" from non-neighborhood schools because of truancy, behavior problems and poor academic performance. In a similar fashion, will it lead to students being removed from classrooms when teachers recognize they are adversely affecting their chances for merit pay?
3. Removing Ineffective Teachers
- Streamlining DCPS's ability to remove ineffective teachers is a good thing as long as it is done fairly. What will be the exact criteria for determining "ineffectiveness?"
- Currently, many teachers do not get the basic supports they need to effectively teach. At the same time IMPACT holds teachers to extremely high, and in some cases, unrealistic expectations. Is this the system we want to use to determine teacher effectiveness? (I realize that teacher evaluations are a nonnegotiable issue in the contract, but there needs to be a discussion about these important issues.)
- Will IMPACT be revised so that it becomes less subjective and reflects the realities of classroom teaching?
4. Foundation Money
- Will the $65 million in donations influence DCPS education policy in areas beyond pay raises?
- Can we really expect these private funders to give money without any strings attached?
- Do we want to promote the practice of a small group of wealthy donors using their private money to influence education policy (e.g., Gates' money used for small high schools)?
The contract can be an important tool in improving the quality of teaching and education in DC. However, we must ensure that it addresses the fundamental problems existing in many schools. I am reserving judgment and hope to have my questions answered soon.