Performance bonus

Teachers win money, lose protection in new Green Dot contract

Teachers at Green Dot New York Charter School are getting a raise, a bonus, and a little less job security.

These are some of the modifications that are set to appear in a two-year renewal of Green Dot’s landmark contract with the United Federation of Teachers. Green Dot offered its teachers a 28-page “thin contract” a year after the school opened in 2008, leaving out many of the work rules and policies – including tenure and seniority-based layoffs – that are found in the bulky union deal with the Department of Education.

That contract expired in August and Green Dot and union officials have spent the last few months hammering out a new version. It was tentatively approved by board members on Sept. 26, but details of the contract had not been shared with teachers until this week.

In a statement issued today, the chief negotiators, Leo Casey, a UFT vice president, and Gideon Stein, who serves on the school’s Board of Trustees, shared details of the contract.

Under the new terms, the staff will receive a 3 percent raise each of the next two years, amounting to what will be 20 percent above the current salaries in the Department of Education. Last year’s teachers will also receive a $2000 bonus because of the school’s high performance. The school’s first students are now seniors so graduation data isn’t available, but 95 percent of students have passed the Regents exams they have taken, according to the Green Dot web site.

“The teachers and other staff are being paid more in recognition of being part of a very successful school,” Stein said.

In one concession, teachers will no longer be able to use an independent grievance process in their first year. Instead, they can be fired any time during their first year for any reason. Once the first year is complete, any grievance would return to being handled by an independent arbiter.

“It pretty much gave us what we wanted,” said an employee at the school, who asked not to be identified because teachers are restricted from speaking publicly about the agreement until it is official. “The only area where we had to cave was the protection for first year teachers.”

In another interesting tweak, Green Dot teachers will soon be evaluated based on a system that complies with the state education department’s Race to the Top application. The DOE’s favored system, the Danielson framework, is currently being used in 33 schools, but so far the city and union have not come to an agreement about whether it could spread to the rest of the DOE schools as well.

The renewed partnership between Green Dot New York and the UFT comes at a time when the teachers’ union is making slow inroads at organizing charter schools.

Of the 14 schools in its charter school portfolio, six converted from district schools meaning that by law teachers remained in the UFT. At most of the other eight schools, teachers organized on their own. The UFT’s charter schools opened with unionized teachers.

Five charter schools remain without contracts, including three – Bronx Academy of Promise, Merrick Academy and New York City Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries – that have been without contracts for more than two years. In an interview last week, Casey said that those schools are in the final stages of ratification and should have contracts in place soon.

“The first contract always takes the most amount of energy in terms of negotiations,”  Casey said. “You’re starting all sorts of things from scratch.”

Two other schools  – Opportunity Charter School and Fahari Academy – only organized in recent months.

Many of the unionized charter schools struggled academically, both before and after the vote to unionize. According to the latest progress reports, eight of the unionized middle and elementary school scored a C or lower.

The latest developments come at a time when the UFT is boosting efforts to recruit teachers working for charter schools. This weekend, it is hosting a conference for charter school educators to discuss the goal of establishing a more of a union presence in charter schools. The event will also feature a panel with Steve Barr, the founder of Green Dot Public Schools.

The contract still has to be finalized, after which it will be brought to the school staff for official ratification. UFT chapter leaders at the school officially recommended that their colleagues vote to approve the contract in a meeting on Wednesday.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.