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On Second Try, Baltimore Teachers Ratify Contract

Baltimore's teaching corps just ratified, by a 1,902-1,045 vote, a new contract that does away with many of the features of its traditional "step-and-lane" salary schedule in favor of one that puts a heavier emphasis on teacher performance.

It looks like second time's a charm in Baltimore: A nearly identical proposal was put to the teacher corps last month and was soundly rejected.

There are a lot of new details in this plan, but arguably its newsiest feature is that it restructures the base-pay system for teachers, which in nearly every district in the country is based on credentials and longevity.

There won't be any more automatic "step" increases each year in Baltimore; raises will be based on collecting achievement units from good evaluations and participation in professional development.

Graduate credits, which used to grant teachers permanent "lane" increases, aren't totally eliminated, but their emphasis is much reduced in the new system. One credit is just one achievement unit, while a superior evaluation is 12. So getting good evaluations is a much faster way to increase one's pay.

Teachers can also advance up a career ladder, taking on additional roles as they earn good evaluations and pass a peer review.

The contract is important in the larger national conversation about teacher pay, too, because to date most experiments with pay have been with additive features, like bonuses, rather than changes to the base-pay salary grid. I recently wrote a story about the handful of districts that have started to look at base pay, and you can find more details about the Baltimore contract in it.

And this is another feather in the cap for Randi Weingarten and her American Federation of Teachers locals. The union and district, she said in a statement, "have shown what is possible when both sides are committed to a collaborative process that is focused on working in the best interests of kids," adding that "trust is paramount in any contractual agreement."

Baltimore CEO Andrés A. Alonso also praised the collaborative work on the contract.

"Teachers are at the very heart of everything we as a school district do, and unlike any other agreement until now—here or elsewhere in the country—this contract truly values teachers and gives them the opportunities for professional and financial advancement that they deserve," he said in a statement.

Of course, your favorite teacher-beat-blogger/gossip wants to know why teachers, who turned down the vote the first time, supported it so strongly this time around. The district's statement cites all of the outreach and information sessions for members held by the district and the Baltimore Teachers Union as a factor.

Marietta English, president of the BTU, had this to say: "We heard our members loud and clear when they said they needed more information and opportunity to give feedback."

Or maybe the yummy BTU-supplied meals did the trick.

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