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Newark’s New Teacher Contract Promotes a Fairer Situation for Teachers and Students
Earlier this month, the teaching force in New Jersey’s Newark Public Schools approved an innovative new teacher contract. The civility of the negotiations that produced the contract stands in sharp contrast to the combative negotiations and eventual teachers’ strike in Chicago just a few months ago. Moreover, the Newark contract includes several measures that have the potential to raise the achievement and skills of the district’s predominantly low-income students.
Newark teachers will now be compensated based, in part, on how well they do their jobs. A new teacher evaluation system is designed to better differentiate teachers’ effectiveness by taking into account student learning, and that information will replace experience as the primary criterion for advancing on the salary scale. A new salary schedule increases base pay for starting and mid-level teachers holding bachelor’s degrees, and any teacher rated highly effective participating in the new salary schedule has the opportunity to receive a bonus. What’s most promising for the district’s students is that additional bonuses will be available to highly effective teachers who work in low-performing schools, an inducement for the district’s strongest educators to teach where they’re needed most.
The contract still provides large bonuses for teachers who earn a master’s degree, even though graduate credentials alone are no guarantee of stronger teaching. However, only degree holders from master's programs that are aligned to the district’s priorities (including alignment with the Common Core State Standards Initiative) will be eligible for these bonuses. To that end, it will be important for district officials to maintain a high bar for meeting these criteria. But overall, the Newark contract is a positive step toward recognizing and rewarding differences in teacher effectiveness, and toward prioritizing strong teachers for students who need them most.
— Melissa Tooley