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MEDIA WATCH: Ruling class 'merit pay' propaganda continues in major media... Newark gets international and national praise for knuckling under to merit pay, while Los Angeles agrees to 'performance' in evaluations

Anyone who believed that one good Chicago strike would stop the ruling class agenda against the public schools would have been surprised at how completely the agenda is still being pushed. Within a couple of days after teachers in Newark, New Jersey, ratified a contract agreeing to merit pay, the voices of the plutocracy were raises in praise of Newark — and again against Chicago's teachers, union and union leaders. In case any Chicago Teachers Union members missed it, the nation's plutocrats now hate us for having won our strike, and one of their central tenets, the bankrupt policy of individual "merit pay", is a main reason.

New Jersey's reactionary governor Chris Christie praises the Newark merit pay agreement, without too much notice of the fact that the money to pay for it has come from a Facebook grant, another example of corporate manipulation of the public agenda. AFT President Randi Weingarten also praised the agreement, standing by while the corporate media used the opportunity to bash the Chicago Teachers Union and CTU President Karen Lewis.Back to recent betrayals of our unions by some in the national leadership. Newark (New Jersey) teachers approved a contract that includes the merit pay provisions by a vote of more than 60 percent in favor. As reported on November 24, from Newark:

“This is where education in America is moving, and you can either be part of the difference, or you can be run over by it,” said [New Jersey Governor Chris] Christie, when asked if he thought the NJEA [New Jersey Education Association] would agree to a similar deal. “I would be thrilled to have them be part of the difference, but I am not one bit reluctant to run them over with it. It can work either way.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, the parent of the Newark local, said the process, while long and often contentious, showed what can be done when all involved keep their eyes on the bottom line..."

But while Randi Weingarten was (again) playing "Good Teacher - Bad Teacher" both within her own Newark local and against the New Jersey Education Association, the voices of wealth in America immediately raised the "Newark Model" for the world. And the game of "Good Union - Bad Union" was being played against the Chicago Teachers Union in the process.

Response from the international corporate "school reform" plutocracy was almost immediate.

The earliest praise for Newark's contract beyond the borders of New Jersey came internationally, in the pages of The Economist.

Within a few days, on December 1, 2012, the Chicago Tribune (see below) weighed in with the same praises (and the same censures of Karen Lewis and the CTU leadership).

While the Tribune was praising the wisdom of the Newark teachers (and of Randi Weingarten of the AFT for joining hands with New Jersey governor Chris Christie behind the merit pay deal), both the Economist and the Tribune took a shot at Chicago teachers and union president Karen Lewis for being behind the times. Meanwhile, Chicago's WLS was red baiting CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey for being a "Red." (Full disclosure: this reporter has been a "Red" for a long time, too, having read most of Marx and Lenin as a young man, as well as most sacred scriptures of the world's religions; Lincoln, Jefferson, Stevens, Grant and Sherman -- and many others; this reporter also went to high school in Newark...).

As of this report, UTLA has not voted on the proposed contract. Substance will report if there will be a fight against this by teachers in LA. The agreement will only take effect if ratified by United Teachers Los Angeles. Many teachers have objected to using test scores in their evaluations, claiming they are an unreliable way of assessing their performance. Two years ago, the publication of test scores and the ranking of the city's teachers by the Los Angeles Times resulted in the suicide of one teacher. UTLA President Warren Fletcher said he was happy with the agreement.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL DECEMBER 1, 2012 BELOW HERE:

December 1, 2012. Maybe in the holiday rush you missed this intriguing school reform news. Teachers in Newark, N.J., recently approved a new contract. What's so momentous about that? The contract includes merit pay based on a teacher's classroom performance, including student academic growth.

Newark teachers could earn bonuses of up to $12,500 for being rated as highly effective, working in a school that has struggled to attract top teachers or teaching hard-to-staff subjects.

The new contract vaults Newark to the front of a national crusade to boost student achievement by retaining and rewarding the best teachers.

The Newark vote wasn't a squeaker: Almost 62 percent of Newark's nearly 4,700 union teachers supported the plan. Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso called the vote "a step in the right direction for the teaching profession," The Star-Ledger reported.

And Chicago? Still way behind the curve. The Chicago Teachers Union fended off a CPS proposal for merit pay in contract negotiations this year. "We don't believe in merit pay," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said.

Lewis' intransigence forced CPS officials to turn down $34 million in federal grant money targeted to develop a merit pay system for public school teachers. CPS had to give the money back to the government because the CTU wouldn't cooperate on a pilot project. What a terrible setback for CPS students, and what an odd decision for teachers to reject the opportunity to earn more money.

Merit pay is a prime way to recognize the best-performing teachers and keep them in the classroom, where they boost student achievement. Newark's teachers apparently get that.

Illinois has a pernicious achievement gap between white and minority students. Just 12 percent of African-American students and 18 percent of Hispanic students read proficiently by fourth grade, according to a recent report from the reform group Advance Illinois. That gap hasn't budged in almost a decade. Pairing the best teachers with the lowest-performing students can help close that gap. Studies show that students can be helped immensely by a very good teacher, just as they can be slowed by a poor one.

More than 300 school districts across the country have joined federal efforts to promote merit pay. They have reaped $1.2 billion in federal money. It's time for more Illinois school districts to sign on. Every principal should welcome the chance to pay his or her superstar teachers for superior performance.

Newark's teachers have accepted the challenge, and stand to reap the rewards. Thousands of students stand to get a better education under the incentives in this contract. That's a triumph to celebrate.

'By far…the most gratifying day of my governorship...' says New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. ECONOMIST ARTICLE NOVEMBER 24, 2012 BELOW HERE:

How’s my educating?

NEWARK’S public schools are dreadful. Although they have been under the supervision of New Jersey’s state government since 1995, there has been little improvement since then. Only 40% of students read to the standard prescribed for their age, and in the 15 worst-performing schools the figure is less than 25%. More than 30% of pupils do not graduate. Few of those who do are ready for higher education. Of those who entered one local establishment, Essex County College, in 2009, a whopping 98% needed remedial maths and 87% had to take remedial English. As a result, fed-up parents are taking their children out of Newark’s public high schools and placing them in independent charter schools. Many public-school buildings now stand half-empty. The best teachers often leave in despair.

Things might now start to change. On November 14th members of the Newark teachers’ union approved, by 1,767 to 1,088, a new agreement with the district which, it is hoped, will help to retain good teachers. It introduces, for the first time in New Jersey, bonus pay. Teachers can now earn up to $12,000 in annual bonuses: $5,000 for achieving good results, up to $5,000 for working in poorly performing schools, and up $2,500 for teaching a hard-to-staff subject. Newark will be one of the largest school districts in the country to offer bonuses. The idea was made palatable to the union, which had been reluctant to accept it, because the evaluation process will unusually be based on peer review, though the school superintendent and an independent panel will still make the final decision on each case.

Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, and Joseph Del Grosso, the head of Newark’s teachers’ union, both agree that Newark’s contract could serve as a model for other school districts. These will take some convincing. The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest union, which is not affiliated with Newark’s, is adamantly opposed to bonus pay. The new salary and bonus scale could be replicated, but not every district has the funds Newark has. Michael Petrilli of the Thomas Fordham Institute, an education think-tank, notes that “not every district has Facebook”. Two years ago, thanks to Cory Booker, Newark’s impressive mayor, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s billionaire founder, donated $100m to help improve Newark’s schools. Some of this money, along with donations from the Pershing Square Foundation and others, will help pay for the Newark teachers’ new contracts.

Newark is not alone in using collective bargaining to achieve reform. Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland and New Haven have all taken much the same route. Nor is it the only district to introduce merit pay. New York experimented for a few years with schoolwide, rather than individual, performance bonuses, but abandoned the idea in 2011. Denver has a programme where teachers receive extra pay for working in hard-to-staff schools. Bonus pay began in 2010 in Washington, DC, which like Newark gets useful extra money from private donors. But Mr Petrilli notes that the District has yet to improve its worryingly high teacher-turnover rate. Performance-based pay is still controversial. Chicago’s teachers, who went on strike in September, were opposed to merit pay. Branden Rippey, a history teacher in Newark, worries that the idea, along with reliance on private donors, will ultimately undermine the union.

Mr Christie, however, believes unions that resist will end up sharing the fate of the dinosaurs. He and Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, have rarely been in agreement, but in this respect they are. Mr Christie, who only three months ago bragged during the Republican convention about taking on the teachers’ unions, declared that the day when the union ratified merit pay and peer review was “by far…the most gratifying day of my governorship.”

From the print edition | United States

LOS ANGELES TIMES ARTICLE ON UTLA

LAUSD, Teacher’s Union Tentatively Agree To Factor Student Test Scores Into Teacher Evaluations. November 30, 2012 6:30 PM

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The L.A. Unified School District and its teachers union announced a tentative agreement Friday to begin using student test scores to evaluate instructors.

KNX 1070′s Margaret Carrero reports that it’s taken five months of bargaining to reach t his landmark decision.

The agreement comes just days before a court-ordered deadline requiring the district to base teacher evaluations on studentperformance, as outlined in the Stull Act.

This is the first time that LAUSD and teachers have agreed to this kind of a review system.

“We’ve reached a historic agreement with UTLA that will improvethe way we undertake certificated evaluations and honors their core purpose: to improve the practices of teaching and to assure accountability in meeting standards of the teaching profession,” said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who’s actively supported using student test scores in teacher performance reviews since he assumed his position a year and a half ago.

The LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, would join Chicago and other cities in adopting this evaluation system.

During the discussion, both sides agreed that student test scores would count for less than 50 percent of a teacher’s score. Teachers would be evaluated every other year. Teachers with more than 10 years of experience would be reviewed every three or four years.

“This agreement strikes a balance that is much needed in the country right now in terms of using student measures of academic progress as both a vehicle to improve instruction, and to hold us accountable for the achievement of students in our schools,” Deasy said.

The agreement will only take effect if ratified by United Teachers Los Angeles. Many teachers have objected to using test scores in their evaluations, claiming they are an unreliable way of assessing their performance.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said he was happy with the agreement.

“Quite often…test scores are used in order to create some sort of quick and dirty number that can be applied to a teacher the same way a restaurant score is attached to a restaurant — and teaching is a complex activity. We wanted to make sure to negotiate a system that uses the data intelligently,” Fletcher said.

The union is continuing to hold talks with the district over other issues.



Comments:

December 5, 2012 at 6:02 PM

By: Anthony Smith

Are Our Paychecks Correct?

Hi George,

I am fairly certain that I speak for many of my colleagues when I say that there seems to be something odd about our paychecks. I was not expecting a large increase BUT I was expecting it to reflect 3% of my pay and it doesn't. Many of my colleagues feel the same and my math friends are trying to figure it out as well. Any possibility of doing a story about our pay?

Thanks for your hard work and effort.

Best wishes,

Tony

December 6, 2012 at 3:49 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Paychecks, reality checks, union meetings

The biggest cause for discussion at the December 5 meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates was paychecks. Each delegate received in the packet of information a sheet (printed on green paper) explaining the situation currently. This should also be on the CTU website. CPS is screwing up some paychecks. Between Brizard and Byrd-Bennett, since Rahm took over they've purged just about everybody in central office who knew how to run a school system -- from getting substitutes to the schools to getting accurate paychecks to the workers. Ask your "Network Chief" how long he taught in a Chicago classroom before becoming a Top Dog, for example.

Sorry for the digression.

Your union delegate should be reporting at the union meeting in your school today or tomorrow on the explanations for the current reality, and the importance of the extra paycheck to get everyone on track. If that explanation from the HOD doesn't help in some cases, and the explanation provided by the union is still not helpful as well, then it's time to call the union.

When I was a delegate, I told my members to "be your own bookkeeper." This means:

(a) saving all pay stubs and keeping a record of missed preps and overtime due;

(b) keeping track of the payrolls and questioning any real discrepancies.

(c) filing a grievance where necessary.

One of the many jobs I had before I came to teaching was construction. Union construction workers in Chicago (and Teamsters in New Jersey, which was also a job I did in my more agile younger days) knew their pay down to the quarter hour.

When I became a teacher I was amazed at how few teachers kept these things carefully in track. What's good about all the questions now is that everyone knows the importance of tracking down these dollars.

The problems are that CPS has sabotaged just about everything inside its own administration by getting rid of qualified and experienced people (don't call them "bureaucrats" until you know what they are doing every day) and replacing them either with empty desks, novices, or overpaid and undercompetent outsiders who pontificate but couldn't operate a corner Kool Aid stand in warm weather.

The most notorious examples are, first Brizard, and now Byrd-Bennett, both of whom received a quarter million dollar per year salary plus a "relocation fee" of $30,000, plus those bonuses they are hiding from the public. But as you know from the nonsense you are getting from your "Network" assholes, the incompetent outsiders have been put in charge at just about all levels.

Let us know how things look at your school after your monthly union meeting.

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