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Pact With New Mayor Would Give N.Y.C. Teachers Raises, Career Ladder

New York City teachers would be granted retroactive raises under a nine-year tentative contract said to be close to finalization. 

Among other things, the contract would also slim the 1.1 million-student district's teacher-evaluation criteria, pave the way for a teacher career ladder, and—controversially—ease some of the 1,000 teachers on the payroll but without teaching assignments into positions, according to city documents and news reports.

The contract signals a new direction for the relationship between the 200,000-member United Federation of Teachers and City Hall, after years of sparring over wages, teacher evaluation, and assignments. 

The former contract expired in 2009 and its renewal has been languishing ever since. With the union unable to reach an agreement with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration, the contract was deep in nonbinding arbitration as of last December. 

But Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom the UFT endorsed during last fall's election, re-opened negotations with the union soon after assuming office. 

Retraoctive pay in line with what other municipal unions received was one of the union's top priorities. Under the deal, teachers will receive a 4 percent raise for both 2009 and 2010, according to City Hall talking points obtained by Education Week. Additional raises will be 1 percent in each year 2013 through 2015, 2.5 percent in 2017, and 3 percent in 2018.

It was not clear whether the retroactive raises would be paid out at once or over a longer timeframe.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new pact would begin to disassemble the "absent teacher reserve" pool, which is comprised of teachers who have lost their positions due to program closures or other reasons, but still draw down salaries. A 2005 deal ended forced placements but led to the reserve pool, which critics say includes some less-effective teachers or teachers who have landed in the pool after being cleared of misconduct charges.

Details on this policy remain somewhat unclear. The Journal reports that some of those teachers could be sent back to the classroom, whereas the city indicates they would get "tryouts" in schools and could easily be dismissed. 

If the contract does endorse forced placements, it would come as a blow to education advocacy groups, who argue that principals should be free to hire who they want into their buildings. The Bill & Melinda Gates-funded advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, for instance, had suggested a comprise in which such teachers would be given two hiring cycles to find a job, but then be dropped from city payrolls.

In one reversal, the contract would slim from 22 to 8 the competencies assessed under the teacher-evaluation system. In pilots of the system, the city has prioritized the smaller set, only to face the union's insistence on a full accounting.

The contract would also reportedly include a $5,000 bonus for teachers who work in certain neighborhoods. And it would include a career ladder, according to Chalkbeat NY, an online-news site.  But it was not clear whether the career ladder would be linked to the teacher-evaluation system or how teachers would be identified for the new roles.

The city's 2005 contract created a schoolwide performance-pay program that was criticized after showing no effects on student learning in several evaluations.

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