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With Race to Top Implications, Hawaii Teachers to Vote on New Contract

Hawaii's teachers will vote Thursday on a new, six-year contract that would establish a new teacher-evaluation system, tie pay raises partly to evaluations, and end a 5 percent salary reduction that Gov. Neil Abercrombie enforced last July.

And the labor agreement could potentially help the state make its case to remove some of the conditions that the U.S. Department of Education put on its $75 million Race to the Top award. As colleague Michele McNeil has reported, the state has been in the doghouse with the Education Department for failing to reach agreement with its teachers' union on the shape of a new evaluation system, one of the core promises in its RTT application.

Here's a rundown of what teachers will be asked to vote on in the tentative agreement:

• As of June 30, 2013, the 5 percent wage reduction would be eliminated and salaries restored to 2009 levels.
• On July 1, 2013, a new teacher evaluation system would replace the current system, which reviewed teachers only once every five years.
• Also on July 1, 2013, a new salary schedule would provide annual "step" movements based on a teacher's annual overall performance evaluation.
• Beginning in school year 2012-13, new teachers would serve "six semesters" of probation before receiving tenure. Once they earn tenure, a teacher would be eligible for a $2,500 bonus.

There are still a lot of details left to be fleshed out here, of course. For instance, although the contract stipulates a new teacher-evaluation system would be in place by 2013, it isn't clear specifically what components will make up this system, although Honolulu Civil Beat reports that half will be based on student achievement growth and half on ratings of teacher practices.

The contract would also, apparently, increase the amount of time it takes for a teacher to earn tenure to "six semesters," which works out to three years—up from just one year under the current system.

The pay reforms are also a bit fuzzy, but it sounds like teachers will earn a 1 percent step increase each year if they get an "effective" rating. A base step salary would still be in effect for all teachers, it appears.

We also don't know whether this will help smooth things over with the Education Department. A look at the state's RTT plan and Scope of Work shows that it had planned to take a new evaluation system statewide in 2013-14 and use it for "high stakes" decisions, i.e., salaries, the following year. And its Board of Education was to set policy on the new compensation model by August of this year.

So while the contract seems like a step in the right direction, there's not a lot of wiggle room on timing, especially when it comes to piloting the new evaluation and compensation systems. We'll be following this closely here at Education Week.


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