Franczek P.C. Helps Negotiate Innovative School Reform Contract
Franczek P.C. recently helped the City of New Haven, Connecticut, to negotiate a successful reform contract with its AFT teachers union. That contract is being heralded by the U.S. Department of Education, AFT leadership and independent observers as a possible model for other challenged school districts to follow.
The parties began the process by focusing on reform measures outside the formal negotiation process. Initially they developed a shared set of beliefs about reform. Building on this foundation, they agreed on principles that ought to guide their plans and, finally, they formulated specific action steps and contractual agreements. Through out the process, the parties worked closely together in a collaborative format. The reform agreements will be implemented under a side letter that applies to the final year of the current contract and under an appendix to the new four-year successor agreement.
The negotiations resulted in specific plans to improve individual teacher performance. The parties expressly agreed that student progress must be a factor in teacher performance and they created committees to determine over the next school year how student progress can best be measured and how such measures will be included in the teacher evaluation process. The parties also agreed to develop a peer evaluation process to utilize in conjunction with the traditional process, and they agreed on steps that will make the teacher remediation process more efficient and effective.
The agreement creates flexibility at the school level to design programs to meet student needs and improve student performance. As part of this process, the schools will be divided into three tiers. In the lowest functioning tier (Tier III), the agreement gives the School District the ability to totally reconstitute schools. Third parties may be brought in to operate these schools. The schools will be free to design new programs, to modify the school day and year and to change compensation methods. Teachers in these schools will choose to participate and will be subject to selection by the principal. Over time, teachers in these schools will have the ability to help shape their educational direction. In other Tier III schools, the District will have the right to make program changes and to change certain work rules so long as certain teacher protections are followed.
In Tier I and II schools, teachers and administrators in the schools will have the ability, working collaboratively, to waive various work rules in order to implement local programs that address specific student needs. And in all schools, significant student progress will qualify schools for compensation bonuses, which the faculty in each school will be able to determine how to distribute.
Reaction to the agreement has been extraordinarily positive. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, called the agreement a template that could be replicated elsewhere. The agreement has also received positive recognition in the New York Times, Education Week and the Wall Street Journal. All involved recognize that the agreement is the first step in a long process, but that first step has been difficult for many other school districts to accomplish.