Can MDUSD and MDEA join the reform movement like Baltimore?

Wednesday Baltimore City teachers voted almost 2 to 1 to pass a contract that will change the way teachers are valued and compensated.

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has six of the 188 lowest performing schools in the state and are at an impasse with two of their non-teacher labor unions. MDEA (the teachers union) and MDUSD have yet to even sit at the negotiating table. Do we have any hope of seeing sweeping change in this district? Is the California Teacher’s Association so strong in this state that our legislators will never have the political will to do what is right for our students and change the Education Code? I would strongly argue that reform would be good for our dedicated and effective teachers as well as for our students.

Here are excerpts from the Baltimore Sun:

“Baltimore is now one of a handful of cities that is leading the nation in innovative contracts and making teachers real partners in reform,” U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Under the new pact, teachers will no longer be paid based on step increases, which are automatic raises based on tenure or the number of degrees acquired. Instead, they will climb a four-tier career ladder, which will see an elite corps of teachers earning six-figure salaries. Teachers will also have the opportunity to vote on working conditions at their schools, such as longer school days.

In addition, in the last two years of the contract, teachers’ pay will be based on an evaluation system not yet drafted by the Maryland State Department of Education that would tie a proposed 50 percent of student performance to teacher evaluations. The contract could also serve as an example to other districts as the state works to reform how teacher evaluations are conducted.
Baltimore Sun 11/17/10

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board salutes the city teachers who recognized that this contract — which establishes a new way of doing business by evaluating teachers more on their abilities and their students’ performance than on years of seniority — represents the wave of the future and launches our city into the forefront of the national school reform movement. Well done, Baltimore educators.
Baltimore Sun 11/17/10


6 thoughts on “Can MDUSD and MDEA join the reform movement like Baltimore?

  1. You raise a good question. Certainly MDUSD and MDEA could work towards joining an effort that would change how public school teachers are paid. We need to have discussions like that. It is my hope that we spend much more time discussing what we need to change so that students are better served. I would argue that the way students are served in California is not successful for all students. I hope that strategic planning will be a catalyst for beginning discussions on fundamental change for our district.

    I guess my questions would begin with how can this work? If we are going to develop a methodology for ranking teachers or employees by ability and performing evaluations that are largely based on students performance, there would need to be extensive discussion on how that would work. For instance, if we are going to evaluate students on their ability to attain grade level proficiency at the end of a year long class, are we going to take into consideration what academic level the student started the class at? If a student starts 3rd grade and has achieved 2nd grade proficiency, that’s one thing. It is completely different if a student starts that same 3rd grade class and has not attained 1st grade proficiency. That student’s performance would not necessarily be the fault of the 3rd grade teacher, but may be due to teaching in the 1st or 2nd grade, or it may be as a result of something completely out of the control of all teachers in the district.

    The other hurdle would be that we don’t have any dollars to augment employee salaries at this point or at any point in the foreseeable future. For us to implement a program like this, I would think that we would need to start by adding some dollars to the salary schedule of those employees who are excelling. Please keep in mind that none of our employee groups have had a raise in years, so in all fairness we need to add something to all employee’s salaries before we start differential pay programs.

    The Maryland public school system is in a little different financial situation than we are. I just looked up their per pupil revenue from the state and they were receiving $12,966 per pupil in 2007-2008. If we received that much money per pupil, that would add roughly $192,000,000.00 per year every year. I would say that we could embark on some pretty wonderful programs for our students if we had money at that level.

    I think the idea to discuss what’s going on in our district relative to what other districts are doing is a great idea. I would eagerly participate in doing so. But as we embark on a quest to improve our district for the students that we serve, please keep in mind that we are in a state where education is not a high enough priority to cause our state politicians to budget per pupil spending at the national average.


  2. Gary,

    I agree with much of what you have said above. However I would also point out that along with our state funding nightmare, schools in California are failing our kids in many other ways. Almost 40% of California high school students don’t graduate. Of those who do graduate many are not well prepared with skills for 21st century careers.

    Every year we layoff bright energetic young teachers and replace them with those who have been in the job longer whether they are better teachers or not. In fact, they not only don’t need to be better, they don’t even need to be good… they don’t even need to teach the right subject. We have politicians in this State who are beholden to the unions that favor the adults in education and not the children. Local politicians like State Senator Mark DeSaulnier who oppose a reform bill like SB955 that would change the policy on how teachers are laid off and base it not on seniority, but on merit and subject need. I don’t know about you but I am evaluated by my boss and have been with every job I have ever held. Why is that not good enough for teachers?

    We have an Education Code that ties the hands of people like you from being able to fire a teacher who is incompetent. I know MDEA will argue that it is the fault of the administrators who don’t let those teachers go in the first two years. That is the wrong attitude. Two years is too short a time to fire a new teacher or grant tenure and a teacher who has been teaching for 15 years can also stop doing their job well.

    I understand our teachers want to be paid more. I understand that they are not competitive with some of our neighboring districts. I also understand that California pays the highest teacher salaries in the nation and is still 4th when the salaries are adjusted for regional costs of living.

    The unions oppose online learning, they control bell schedules that if aligned would allow innovative teaching opportunities, they put up road blocks and inform teachers of district policy they need not follow.

    So when I post information like this I am not interested in seeing a compensation model implemented into a status quo system. I am interested in innovative ways to teach and engage our students by changing the system and implementing reform that not only engages students but also engages and motivates great teachers. To do this contract negotiations have to be part of the reform.

    If that was everyone’s motive we could be talking about innovative ideas to maximize our resources, raise the professional value of teaching, and better educate our students.

    Do we still need to pressure the State of California to adequately fund our children’s education? You bet we do!

    Thanks for sharing your comments above.

  3. I almost never create remarks, but i did a few searching and wound up here Can MDUSD
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