Is D.C. teachers' contract a model?

Washington, D.C. teachers have agreed to a contract that includes pay for performance, reduced seniority protections — and hefty pay increases.  Will this prove to be a model for the nation? National Journal’s Education Experts discuss the issue.

The new contract includes a pay raise of 21.6 percent over five years (retroactive to the expiration of the old contract) that will raise average annual salary from $67,000 to $81,000. Philanthropic support made the generous financial package possible. Under the new regime, principals will use job performance, as opposed to seniority, as the top criterion to make decisions about staff reductions when budget or program changes require it.

Will the new contract lead to improved performance at D.C. schools? Should other cities look for foundation support to supplement teacher pay? What are the national implications?

“Fundamentally, this agreement would allow DCPS to treat its teachers as individual professionals, with their own qualities, successes and failures,” writes Daniel Weisberg of The New Teacher Project.

Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence points to the very high costs:

The financial incentives to enroll in the voluntary performance pay program will have to be significant, since brand-new teachers who don’t enroll will receive a minimum salary of $51,539 in the 2011-12 school year – and those with 21+ years of experience will earn up to $106,540.

Will the new contract lead to improved performance of D.C. schools? Let’s hope so. But its extraordinary cost makes it an unlikely model for other U.S. school districts.

I think Antonucci is right about the money.

Rick Hess has more on the contract’s significance.

Master's pay bump is waste of money

Paying teachers more for a master’s degree wastes money, conclude researchers Marguerite Roza and Raegen Miller in Separation of Degrees by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and the Center for American Progress.

On average, master’s degrees in education bear no relation to student achievement. Master’s degrees in math and science have been linked to improved student achievement in those subjects, but 90 percent of teachers’ master’s degrees are in education programs — a notoriously unfocused and process-dominated course of study.

In New York, 78 percent of teachers hold master’s degrees, costing an extra $416 per student or $1.12 billion a year.

Teacher pay should be aligned to their ability to boost student achievement, Roza and Miller conclude.

On City Journal, Sol Stern has “seven achievable reforms” in the New York City teachers’ union contract.

. . . (Mayor) Bloomberg’s six-year school-spending binge . . .  fattened the education budget from $12.7 billion in 2003 to $21 billion this year — probably the greatest increase by a school district in the history of American education. The UFT was complicit in the spending, since it reaped a 43 percent across-the-board pay raise for teachers, an identical hike for the union’s executives and managers, and a commensurate increase in union dues.

One suggestion is to tear up the “irrational salary schedule” and replace it with “a formula that plausibly links pay raises to real academic accomplishment and classroom skills.”