The Future of No Child Left Behind and New Jersey’s ProspectsNovember 15, 2012
Sunday LeftoversNovember 18, 2012
The teachers’ union for this city’s chronically troubled schools approved a contract on Wednesday establishing performance bonuses, long opposed by national union leaders and promoted by their critics as a way to increase accountability.
The school district, New Jersey’s largest, will be one of the largest in the nation to use so-called merit pay bonuses, and union leaders argued that approving the contract would make Newark a model across the country.
“The teachers were heroic to vote for this,” said Joseph Del Grosso, the president of the 4,700-member Newark Teachers Union. “It’s certainly something different, it’s something new. But I’m of the opinion that teachers have to take control of their own profession, their own destiny.”
The Newark Teachers Union approved a groundbreaking contract Wednesday that introduces a form of merit pay and gives teachers input into each others’ annual performance evaluations.
The contract was fueled by $50 million in philanthropic money poured into the state’s largest city through a foundation started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Under the new contract that covers 2010 through 2015, teachers who score well on evaluations will see future annual pay increases of 3% to 5%. In addition to those raises, the contact provides the opportunity for top-rated teachers and those who teach in understaffed subjects and schools to earn bonuses.
“It’s a great vote, but it’s going to take a lot of work to put this together, that’s the tough part,” Del Grosso said.
Looking tired from a long day in which voting started at 6:30 a.m., Del Grosso said he didn’t entirely blame a third of his voting membership for casting “no” votes.
“It’s a difficult contract; it’s a leap of faith, it really is,” he said. “They took the leap, which I am grateful for. But we now have to show the members how it will work.”
The contract uses the new four-tier teacher rating system being ushered in across the state. It includes a 13.9 percent salary increase over three years for those rated “effective,” with additional merit bonuses for those rated “highly effective.” Teachers who are rated as highly effective, who work in one of the city’s lowest-performing schools and who teach a hard-to-staff subject, could earn as much as $12,500 per year in incentive pay.