Minneapolis teacher pact details emerge

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2014 - 5:24 AM

The proposed contract would allow the district superintendent to pursue her plan to create more flexible schools, including some relief for crowded classrooms.

A proposed new contract for Minneapolis teachers would let Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson implement her autonomy-for-accountability proposal for selected schools, give teachers some redress when their classes are stuffed with more students than targets call for, and allow teachers to be hired earlier for hard-to-fill specialties and schools.

Neither the district nor the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has publicly disclosed the details of a tentative agreement reached on March 1. A summary of the proposal and selected sections were sent to teachers Monday, and the Star Tribune obtained a copy. Teachers won’t vote on the deal until a month after it was negotiated. The board won’t vote until after teachers cast ballots, but members reviewed the proposal in private Tuesday.

Spokesman Stan Alleyne said the district deferred to union President Lynn Nord­gren’s decision to share the pact with members before the district made the deal public. Former City Council President Paul Ostrow said he was troubled that the only detail to emerge so far has been the 2 percent annual cost-of-living raises, which he called the least important part of the negotiating agenda.

The deal is already generating pushback from some teachers. Some object to a clause that could increase the work year for teachers at Johnson’s proposed “partnership schools” to 211 days, compared to 196 now. These schools are a key element of Johnson’s efforts to reshape the district by granting schools working under a performance contract the ability to be flexible on matters such as curriculum, testing, time on the job, budget and other key features.

The proposal doesn’t specify how many partnership schools or the timing, but Johnson has previously spoken of allowing 20 to 30 percent of district schools such freedom.

On class size, the agreement calls for district targets to be set for schools, but teachers have complained that often those are overwhelmed by newly arriving students. The agreement calls for added aides and teachers, shifting students among grade-level teachers and other remedies when targets are exceeded; teachers will have streamlined ability to seek relief from the district when their class exceeds the target.

For struggling schools, the district committed to a target of 18 students per K-3 classroom, down from the current 21 — but it’s well above the 15-1 ratio found in landmark Tennessee research to exert a marked improvement in performance.

 

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib

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