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New York City's Teachers' Contract: Examining the Details

Last Thursday's announcement of a tentative contract for New York City's teachers was classic: District and union officials piled into a room, held a huggy press conference, declared the contract a "landmark," and spoke only in the most general terms—leaving as many questions as answers for those who wanted to know how the long-delayed pact would work. 

Most confusing of all was how the city would handle its 1,200 "excessed" teachers—those without a teaching position but still being paid. Union and district officials promised they'd slim the pool down, but offered few specifics.

Now that the United Federation of Teachers has made the actual contract language available, let's see how this is going to play out on the ground. 

How will teachers be picked for the new career ladder?  It was unclear from the summaries released by the union and district whether this new career ladder would be based on teacher longevity or on some other measure. Now we know that the new positions of teacher ambassador ($7,500 extra), model teacher ($7,500) and master teacher ($20,000) will require teachers to earn a "highly effective" or "effective" evaluation score in order to be eligible. A joint labor-management panel will set other criteria.

A $5,000 pay premium for working in "hard to staff" schools, on the other hand, has more lax requirements; those teachers merely need a  "developing" rating.

Which teacher-evaluation components will be scored?  The parties promised to scale back the number of teaching competencies to eight. But which ones? Well, the language specifies the competencies and how they'll be weighted, with five of them relating to classroom environment and instruction being worth the most. 

Is forced placement back?  The short answer: It depends on how you look at it.

There were conflicting reports about whether the excessed teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool would be force-placed or merely granted interviews. Another area of confusion: whether an expedited due-process hearing would play out for all teachers or merely those up on misconduct charges. Here's how it all works, according to the contract.

  • First, there's a voluntary severance program, which pays out on a sliding scale based on length of service, up to 10 weeks of pay for those with 20 or more years. 
  • During September 15 to October 15, the district will arrange interviews between ATRs and schools with applicable license areas. ATRs that decline twice or don't show up for an interview will be considered to have voluntarily given up employment. 
  • After that, ATR teachers can be assigned to vacancies, but principals can send them back to the pool for any reason. 
  • If tenured ATR teachers are assigned to schools and twice removed by principals because of "problematic behavior," they can be dismissed under an expedited hearing process.
  • Problematic behavior is somewhat vaguely defined as "behavior inconsistent with the expectations established for professionals working in schools." 
  • This sequence of actions only lasts through 2015-16, unless district and union agree to extend it.

 

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