Collaborations Between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems

The Center for American Progress just published a report titled "Partnering for Compensation Reform - Collaborations between Union and District Leadership in Four School Systems". Whether you support merit pay for teaching or believe it is an effective way to compensate teachers and improve student outcomes, one thing is increasingly clear. Collaboration is essential. This is why SB5 and the SB5 provisions that were included in the state budget were such terrible ideas, doomed to failure.

Here's a brief snippet from the report. Please note that CAP is funded in part by the Eli Broad Foundation, a Corporate education reform booster, but here at JTF we like to bring a depth and breadth of research for you to consider. One of the school systems studied was Toledo.

Through our four case studies of these TIF grantees, the author has identified six common elements at work in these performance-pay partnerships between districts and unions:
  • There is a history of trust—the belief that the other party genuinely wants what is best for you—between teachers’ unions and school district leaders.
  • Leaders identify key challenges together and focus on joint problem solving and learning.
  • Teacher input is encouraged and valued in the design of pay programs.
  • Pay programs embrace a comprehensive approach focused on building teacher capacity, including a focus on new professional development systems and teacher evaluation systems.
  • Teacher participation in pay programs is voluntary.
  • Districts allow for flexibility in program design.

Some critics have raised questions about whether performance pay in particular has an impact on student achievement. A study released in the fall of 2010 by researchers at Vanderbilt University raised questions about the effectiveness of one performance-pay program involving 300 middle-school math teachers in Nashville, TN, suggesting it had little impact on student performance. Notably, however, the Vanderbilt program was narrow in scope, limited largely to a bonus tied solely to test scores, and lacking additional program components or supports for teachers. Unlike the programs we studied, however, the Nashville program did not take a comprehensive approach that tied performance pay to improvements in professional development or to changes in how teachers are evaluated.

More comprehensive and collaborative approaches, such as the partnerships we examined in the four districts receiving TIF funds, are more likely to be successful. There is little reason to expect that a simple bonus by itself can have a profound impact if it is not paired with substantive changes in professional development, teacher evaluation, teacher working conditions, and a significant role for teacher leadership and input in schoolwide reform efforts, among other elements. Many of these more comprehensive approaches are just beginning to be put into practice, so little evidence exists yet of their relative effectiveness on student achievement. More research in this area will be helpful in determining the impact of these reforms over the long term.

Partnering for Compensation Reform