Teacher-Principal Created Contracts: Should Teachers and Principals Craft Work Rules at the School Level? Do Teacher Union Contracts Impede Teaching and Learning?

 Teacher contracts are a set of agreed upon sections called articles: standard legal boiler plate delineating the nature of the management/union relationship, i. e., union recognition, fair practices, salary and benefits, pension and retirement, licensure, safety and health, leaves, excessing, layoff, per session, and, the more controversial section dealing with “work rules;” programs, assignments and teaching conditions. 
In a 2008 study evaluating the “restrictiveness” of teacher union contracts the Fordham Foundation, a conservative think tank, ranked the NYC contract 36th out of 50 … with the second lowest ranking of “restrictive.”
Sol Stern, in the City Journal and Thomas Carroll, a charter school booster, in the NY Post op ed also sharply criticized the current contract on the eve of beginning of contract negotiations.
Criticism of  teacher union contracts only matter if they impact negatively on teaching and learning.
There is no evidence of any correlation between teacher union contracts and pupil achievement.  The core of the charter school philosophy is that the freedom from management regulation and union contracts will somehow result in more effective instruction and higher student achievement, an unsubstanciated philosophical underpinning.
Charter school advocates aver that something “different” is happening in charter schools.
Do teachers in unionized classrooms and teachers in non-unionized charter school classrooms do anything differently?   I doubt it, however, we have no idea.  In fact we do not know why some teachers are more effective than others.
In 2006 the Gates Foundation, in a report, suggests, 
. We propose federal support to help states measure the effectiveness of individual teachers—based on their impact on student achievement, subjective evaluations by principals and peers, and parental evaluations
The NYC Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers have gone a step further and are commencing a three year study called the Measures of Effective Teaching Project. What specific classroom teacher practices impact instruction.
Let’s embark upon another “experiment,” allow a cohort of schools to collaboratively craft their own “work rules, both within the contract and Department policies.
In my view, these mis-titled “work rules,”  are simply responses to management abuses, or a way of making some other clause of a contract more palatable to the members. Remember,  teachers must approve any new contract in a secret ballot vote.
I suggest that Article Seven, (“Programs, Assignments and Teaching Conditions in Schools and Programs”) be “at play.” Schools decide what sections of the article they want to remain, what sections they want to eliminate, amend or replace. In addition schools should be able to amend or ignore current Board policy.
1. Schools would opt to participate in the project by a super majority vote of the teaching staff and the approval of the principal.
2. The DOE and the UFT creates a simple mechanism by which the UFT Chapter Leader and the Principal accepts, rejects amends or creates the various relevant sections of Article Seven and Department policy.
3. The teaching staff, again, by a super majority accepts/rejects the school-created work rules/policy, with the approval of the Principal, and the Chancellor and the UFT President.
4. Limit the experiment to fifty (50) schools, with designated union staff to support.
5. The school-based contract would sunset at the end of the year, “buy in” would be annual.
If a school community, teachers and school leaders, want too, let’s allow them, within clearly delineated parameters, to become the equivalent of a charter school in the public school sector, perhaps obviating the need to “raise the charter cap” and removing the “it’s the contract” argument from the landscape.

2 responses to “Teacher-Principal Created Contracts: Should Teachers and Principals Craft Work Rules at the School Level? Do Teacher Union Contracts Impede Teaching and Learning?

  1. Eric Nadelstern

    A one-year term is too disruptive. At least 2, and preferably 3-5, would be a more realistic test of student outcomes.


  2. The contract isn’t the problem, the current management at the DOE is the problem. A lawyer and the mayor are trying to run the school system like a corporation, and it’s not working.


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