Wisconsin teachers’ union backs reforms

In a surprising shift, Wisconsin’s largest teachers union has endorsed performance pay and evaluating teachers with value-added measures and peer review, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. In addition the Wisconsin Education Association Council proposed splitting up the Milwaukee Public Schools system, an idea the union opposed when it was advocated by former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Wisconsin needs an organized way to move underperforming teachers out of the profession, said Mary Bell, WEAC’s president. The union’s proposal includes “career transition services” for teachers who fail to meet performance standards over three years.

She also said that the state’s outdated model of paying teachers based on years of education should be replaced with one that rewards high-performing teachers who meet learning objectives with students. Instructors who take on hard-to-staff positions and additional responsibilities should receive extra compensation, as should teachers who earn their national board certification, she said.

WEAC’s proposal to break up MPS is not supported by its Milwaukee local. The governor and state education department officials had no comment.

State Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon), the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, called WEAC’s announcement a “huge move.”

“I think they know this is happening across the country, and we’re going to do it in Wisconsin, and so they decided, ‘We can sit on the sidelines or we can play ball,’ and I’m glad they’re interested in playing ball,” said Olsen, who is working on reform efforts aimed at ensuring that schools can remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

An eight-part Journal-Sentinel series, Building a Better Teacher, reported that Wisconsin legislators and union leaders have resisted teacher-quality reforms pursued in other states.

About Joanne