Cleveland teachers advance the way forward

According to an excellent news report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) just wiped away all of Frank Jackson's empty rhetoric for why he would not involve teachers in the development of his plan, by presenting a clear set of workable alternatives, that advances the way forward for Cleveland schools..

Whether educators express it through massive surveys, or actual deeds, they continue to prove a deep commitment to reforms that lead to quality learning for students. Cleveland teachers, with their clear set of alternative, have demonstrated that too.

Just a week ago, less than 24 hours after Jackson released his plan, he was complaining that he didn't have a response from CTU. We could be petty and point out that Jackson has now had CTU's proposals for nearly a week and still hasn't gotten around to reading them.

"I'm not in a negotiation or compromise mode," Jackson said. "I'm in an outcome mode. If I'm wrong in how I'm proposing to get there, tell me how I should do it. I'll do anything that gets us the outcome."

Jackson was unwilling to say whether CTU's plan offered the kind of change he wants, but said that "my expectation is that there is something that we have a deeper dive on in terms of conversation and details."

School district Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon said he has also not had time to review the plan in detail but is "hopeful."

We suggest he and his team now make that a priority. The alternatives put forward by CTU are based upon research and principles that work, and provide for a fair way forward. If Jackson is unable to begin to compromise now he has a credible and clear way forward, it should become crystal clear to all that his objections are political, not pedagogical.

Below is a table of comparisons between current policy, Jackson's plan and the way forward presented by Cleveland teachers.

Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Until the summer of 2013, seniority is the deciding factor in layoffs and recalls. Teachers with short-term, or limited contracts, are laid off first, but based on seniority, then teachers with tenure, or continuing contracts, are laid off based on seniority.

When CTU's contract expires in 2013, a 2011 law makes teacher evaluations the deciding factor. Teachers with limited contracts will be laid off based on evaluations, then teachers with continuing contracts based on evaluations. Seniority is used only as a tiebreaker between teachers in the same pool.

Mirrors the budget bill by making teacher performance the main factor in layoffs and recalls, but removes the distinction between a continuing and limited contract except as a tiebreaker. Also adds other factors to determine the ranking of teachers, including recent teaching assignments and specialties. Would create eight "buckets" that would divide teachers first by their evaluation (ratings of 1 to 4, with 1 being the lowest) and then by seniority. Teachers with the lowest rating and a limited contract would be laid off first, followed by teachers with the lowest rating and a continuing contract, then teachers with the second-lowest rating and a limited contract, then the second-lowest rating and a continuing contract, and so on.
Merit pay
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The contract pays teachers based on their experience and education level, with bonuses for extra duties. Last year's state budget bill required districts to include teacher ratings in their salary schedules but did not specify to what degree. Jackson wants to make performance a major part of a "differentiated compensation" plan for teacher pay that pays more for higher performance, extra duties or teaching subjects where there is a teacher shortage or in troubled schools. The proposed law would mandate that this plan prevail over any new contract. The union has issues with the wording of this part of the legislation. It did not raise objections to the compensation plan itself.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district is testing a plan that mirrors statewide requirements to have an evaluation system that measures teachers half on academic growth of students and half on other factors. The state requires a plan for all districts by the 2013-14 school year, but Cleveland is a year ahead of that timetable. Reaffirms that plan but offers some flexibility in timing. Teachers and the district mostly agree. Teachers want any law changes on evaluation to include extra training and support for teachers who fall short, and to be sure that evaluators are properly trained. They also don't want to jeopardize the federal Race to The Top grant the district and others are using to develop the plan.
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The district can seek to fire a teacher for poor teaching after either a year-long review process by the principal, or after following that year with a year of peer review and assistance through a system the union has helped set up. Teachers can also be fired for other behavior. Would allow a teacher to be fired for having the lowest evaluation rating two years in a row. Jackson also wants the system to move faster. His plan would give teachers short-term contracts that the district can simply choose not to renew. The teachers union believes the current plan or one developed by its national union is just as fast and effective as Jackson's. Its plan includes help for teachers with low performance ratings before they are fired.
New collective bargaining agreements
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The old contract between CTU and the district guides all new negotiations, and the contract includes several rules on specific issues that roll over in the new contracts. Jhrows out the previous contract and all previous rules and would start negotiations from scratch. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the district could impose a contract rather than reverting to the old one.

The union objects entirely to this proposal.

It proposes instead creating a new contract that starts from scratch for three specialty schools within the district, Campus International and two MC2 STEM schools, and it would be in place by July 2013. Those schools would be exempt from layoff and recall rules that apply to the rest of the district.

Tenure/continuing contracts
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
Teachers can apply for a continuing contract after three or seven years of service, depending on when they were hired, and their removal becomes much harder after that. If teachers meet experience and continuing education rules, continuing contracts are generally granted. All new teachers would not be eligible for continuing contracts and existing teachers would have strict limitations on applying for them. Even then, continuing contracts would be granted at the discretion of the CEO and school board. The union completely opposes the plan, saying that if the district does not offer job security, it will be at a recruiting and hiring disadvantage.
Reforming low-performing schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
The law allows reallocation of resources, redesigning academic programs or giving extra assistance to students. The district and CTU must negotiate any changes in work rules or hours. The two sides have reached agreements for some schools in the last few years. The district CEO would have wide authority to close or reshape a school. The CEO could lay off or fire teachers or change the length of the school year or day in order to reorganize the school.

The teachers union wants to forbid the layoff or firing of teachers just because they work in a low-performing school, regardless of their individual performance.

It proposes turning low performing schools into "New Generation" schools that would focus on failing students in the third through seventh grades. Those schools could have a year-round calendar, an extended school day and work with social services agencies.

Union presence in district-sponsored charter schools
Current Jackson's plan CTU proposal
If a district converts a school to a charter school, a 2011 law allows it to exempt the school from any unions as soon as the current contract for that union expires. Jackson sought this change last year so his plan does not propose anything further. The union wants to repeal the rule. It also wants more leeway to try to organize teachers in any charter school sponsored by a district. This would let teachers at the district-sponsored Breakthrough charter schools talk with CTU without fear of reprisals and possibly unionize.