Negotiators for the School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers deserve kudos for months of hard work hammering out an agreement that provides some important tools to support better teaching.
The District resisted the temptation to impose terms and stuck with a consensual approach. The union, breaking with past tradition, embraced an array of measures that will enhance its members’ role as professionals who have a major stake in the quality of teaching. These include:
- Teachers will have real power in decisions about who gets hired at their school under “site selection” rules that require principals to convene a consensus- based hiring committee.
- The Peer Assistance and Review program is a new framework for finally creating a meaningful teacher evaluation process with feedback and support from colleagues and appropriate actions when job performance is subpar.
- Amidst national hype about merit pay, the parties agreed to try out a reasonable “value added compensation program” offering schoolwide rewards to union members at schools making the greatest gains. Extra compensation will be weighted toward high-needs schools.
Advocates point out that the contract does not go far enough to provide incentives for teaching at those high-needs schools. Moreover, provisions of the Renaissance Schools plan may accelerate teacher flight at already hard-to-staff schools. It will require vigilance on all sides to keep moving forward on problems of teacher turnover and inequities in the distribution of teachers. But this contract represents qualified progress.