In Denver, it's been all about performance pay for the last few days. First the school district and the teachers' union settled a long-running dispute over changes to the teacher merit-pay plan, and now the Democrats at their national convention are all set to embrace performance pay as a party-platform issue. For the teachers' unions, which are out in full strength at the convention, this has not been a blessing, exactly. In fact, they have been looking like everyone's favorite punching bag. The unions have long disliked any deviation from teacher tenure and seniority, and the National Education Association has ...


If money is any measure, the teachers' unions certainly have a thing for Hillary Clinton. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the 3.2-million-member National Education Association may have endorsed Barack Obama for president, but Clinton got just a little more of their money: $23,000 compared with the $22,000 received by Obama. And the American Federation of Teachers, which first endorsed Clinton for president, gave her a whopping $32,000 compared with just around $11,000 for Obama, whom they later endorsed. The NEA made it into the top 10 "heavy-hitters" list of political givers ...


The saga between the Washington Teachers' Union and District of Columbia public schools took another interesting turn last week. WTU filed a lawsuit against the school system over the dismissal of more than 70 probationary (nontenured) teachers. The union seeks to restore these teachers to employment. George Parker, the president of the union, said the district dismissed these teachers even though they were meeting the expectations of their probationary period, thus the dismissals violated due process guaranteed educators as part of the current contract. The lawsuit is illuminating, given the state of current contract negotiations, which hinge on a two-tiered ...


This story on New Jersey's progress toward meeting the goal of putting a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom is interesting. The state has 99 percent of teachers meeting the HQT standard. That's impressive, but not unique: Almost every state is past the 90 percent mark now, and North Dakota actually reached 100 percent last year. What's telling is that the state is having a particularly hard time getting middle school educators highly qualified. Under NCLB, middle and high school teachers are essentially held to the same standard: They need to hold a major or have completed coursework equivalent to ...


Just in time for the Democratic convention, Denver schools and the teachers' union have come up with a tentative agreement on ProComp, the city's performance-pay plan for teachers. The contract would give all teachers 3 percent pay raises and allow teachers who don't want to be part of ProComp to drop out by October this year. But some veteran teachers could also see their pay raises vanish, which has left them feeling pretty dissed, according to this Denver Post story. One teacher said the change would cut yearly raises for veteran teachers to $350 a year from a possible $1,300...


In its fight to resist major changes to the performance-pay system ProComp, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association doesn't seem to have any friends. First there was a report from the citizens' commission, A-Plus Denver, issued this month that said ProComp contributes too much toward salary base-building, which the union favors. Instead, the report said, the money should be driven more directly toward the elements that contribute to improving student achievement. Then, a splinter group of about 275 teacher members went public saying the union leadership was not representing the view of the majority within the union, and called for a ...


A quick update on the murky saga of the Chicago Teachers Union. Yesterday, the union's executive board voted to get rid of Ted Dallas, the vice president who had been accused of financial improprieties. Dallas had in turn filed suit against the union, accusing President Marilyn Stewart of similar misdoings, including spending half a million dollars on food over a year. Read the Chicago Tribune story here. Dallas had been a member of the union since 1970, and had run on Stewart's slate for the last two elections. But the two fell violently apart over the past several months. At ...


I wrote about the pending "tenure-for-pay swap" proposal in the D.C. schools contract here. About the same time the story went up, a copy of some of the results from the poll conducted by the American Federation of Teachers of Washington Teachers Union members wound up on this Web site. The findings, on the face value of things, don't appear to bode well for the plan: 44 percent of WTU members polled expressed unfavorable opinions about the proposal; just 23 percent supported it.That was without hearing any details. When told about the "red" and "green" tier, the percentages ...


They probably don't look like Michelle Pfeiffer or clown around as voraciously as Jack Black. But the most successful teachers in real life do share some of the maverick and eccentric qualities seen in Hollywood's most famous teacher depictions. That's what Catherine Cornbleth, a University of Buffalo professor, found after studying teachers entering urban classrooms with students from different racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds and with varying levels of academic ability and motivation. In her book, Diversity and the New Teacher: Learning From Experience in Urban Schools, Cornbleth says teachers who succeeded in these challenging environments have some of ...


Less than a week before the national spotlight turns on Denver, which is playing host to the Democratic National Convention, school district officials must be praying really hard. Starting tomorrow, for three days, union and district officials will negotiate proposed changes to ProComp, the city's highly lauded performance-pay plan, which both sides had blessed at its creation. For now, that camaraderie is moot as the district and the union fight bitterly over what to change, and to what extent. You can read about those proposed changes in this story and in a chat we recently hosted with teachers' union President ...


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