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San Jose District, Teachers Agree to Contract: New Teacher Rating System

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KQED News Editor Julia McEvoy spoke with Jennifer Thomas, president of the San Jose Teachers Association, about how the deal got done, what's different and what it means for teachers.

San Jose Unified and its teachers union have agreed to a contract that includes a new way for the district to rate its teachers. It allows teachers to join the process of rating peers, along with principals, and it denies an annual pay increase to any teacher who isn't up to snuff and fails to improve, after getting mentoring and support. 

The district is also in continuing talks with the union about creating career paths for teachers, which could lead to extra pay for taking on demanding projects. All of that is a bit novel in the context of the ongoing debate nationwide over what constitutes a fair evaluation, and whether teacher pay should be linked to performance.

Teachers unions have been wary of the effort across the country to revamp teacher performance, especially when there is talk of linking teacher pay to standardized test scores.

Critics call most current teacher evaluation systems flawed, pointing to districts where nearly all teachers are rated "outstanding," including ones that contain failing schools. Some states have crafted laws mandating that student test scores be counted in some proportion in evaluating teachers. In Los Angeles the district superintendent called for scores counting for 30 percent of a teacher's overall rating.

In San Jose, the school district and teachers have agreed to a new evaluation process that everyone seems happy with. Three-quarters of all teachers voted on the contract and 72 percent of those voted in favor of it.

Edsource does a nice job of laying out the details and what is groundbreaking about the agreement.

 

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