II. The Fundamentals
III. The Basics
V. Tools: Bargaining
VI. Tools: Peer Assistance and Review
In education, comprehensive unionism is a constellation of ideas and practices from proactive labor leaders to enhance student learning and empower teachers to improve policy. By bringing the voice of the practitioner to the table, unions have historically been a powerful force in education.
There are many benefits of comprehensive unionism, the most important of which is that it puts the shoulder of these influential organizations to the task of improving education right alongside other stakeholders. While certain types of contract language (see section VI, “Contracts”) are the most visible artifact of progressive unionism, significant benefits result from the process of union reform even in the absence of product.
The on-line and print resources that follow provide a starting place for understanding progressive teacher unionism. Most of the descriptions are quoted from the websites.
II. The Fundamentals:
These materials provide an overview of the conceptual framework of comprehensive unionism, and a way of approaching the challenge.
- Three Frames of Progressive Unionism - While progressive union leaders traditionally address basic working conditions of members, today’s education leaders also must advocate for conditions that support high-quality teaching and learning. In addition, education unions increasingly are organizing efforts to ensure equity in education for all students.
- What is the Union’s Role in Strengthening and Sustaining Public Education Today? This document can be a useful tool to encourage important conversations among local association leaders and members.
- Teachers and Their Unions and the American Education Reform Agenda - Marc Tucker writes a cogent historical analysis that captures the contradictions of American teacher unionism, and underlines the basic principles of union reform. Essential reading.
III. The Basics:
- Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration US Department of Education - At the Department’s February 2011 labor-management conference in Denver (LMC), ED worked with unions, boards and administrators to build capacity for new collaborative relationships that put great student outcomes first. Case studies of the presenting districts are pending publication.
- Collaborating on School Reform: Creating Union-Management Partnerships to Improve Public School Systems This Rutgers University/AFT study features four of the locals at the Denver LMC and provided the basis for the qualitative research of the Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the LMC. These are districts that were identified by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) as having a lengthy track record of innovation, and because they appear to have institutionalized a long-term collaborative partnership between administration and the local teachers’ union centered around school improvement, student achievement, and teacher quality.
- Leading the Local: Teachers Union Presidents Speak on Change, Challenges - We seldom hear the views of local union leaders about the role that their organizations do and should play in public education and school reform.
Several organizations are bringing together progressive union leaders.
- TURN (Teacher Union Reform Network) is a nationwide network of more than 50 union locals promoting progressive reforms in education and in teacher unions - to improve student achievement, increase teacher connectivity, and elevate teachers' voices in the reform debate.
- The Consortium for Educational Change (CEC) is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Illinois Education Association. CEC was founded in 1987 and has over 80 district members. To become a CEC member, district superintendent, board president and teachers’ union president must all agree to work together to improve student learning and achievement.
- The Tom Mooney Institute for Teacher and Union Leadership is a new effort by seasoned leaders within the teacher union movement to develop the leadership skills and organizational capacity of the next generation of reform minded teacher unionists. We promote a progressive vision of the role of the teachers’ union. Our goal is to help local union leaders to be bold, collaborative, creative advocates for the improvement of public education.
V. Tools: Bargaining
There is a collection of negotiation techniques employed in progressive unionism such as Interest Based Bargaining, broad scope bargaining, open contracts and more. Thee don’t replace traditional techniques of distributive/positional bargaining, but rather augment them, providing union leaders with powerful new tools that can be deployed in appropriate situations to benefit the educational enterprise and the well being of professional educators and their students.
- Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service - A Different Way to Negotiate: Known by many names and practiced in many variations and settings: Win-Win Bargaining, Mutual Gains, Principled or Interest-Based Negotiation, Interest-Based Problem Solving, Best Practice or Integrative Bargaining. No matter which variation is used, Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) may offer parties more flexibility than traditional bargaining, not locking them into predetermined issues and bargaining positions. Instead, the process begins with understanding the problem and identifying the interests that underlie each side’s issues and positions.
- Bargaining Methods and New forms of Agreements is a chapter from Win-Win Labor-Management Collaboration in Education: Breakthrough Practices to Benefit Students, Teachers, and Administrators by Linda Kaboolian and Paul Sutherland. Kaboolian and Sutherland outline six contemporary techniques in LMC that move conversations past positional stalemate and towards re-conceiving teacher contracts as means of promoting the end goal of the enterprise: great student learning. Topics include: Interest Based Bargaining, Salary Benchmarking, Waivers and Override Procedures, Thin Contracts, Living Contracts and Contract Language on Student Achievement. Examples of locals/districts that have incorporated the practices are provided, along with contact information for the leaders.
- Interest-Based Bargaining in Education (NEA 2003) - Despite almost 20 years of experience with a variety of alternative techniques in collective bargaining in education, there is no summary of the research on negotiation practices or survey of practice variations in use. The parties in negotiations have little to guide them in their investigation of the utility of what are commonly referred to as Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) strategies. In order to give negotiators tools with which they can make choices appropriate to their needs based on current knowledge and practice, this report offers an informed discussion of the utility of various bargaining models.
- Improving Student Learning Through Collective Bargaining - Adam Urbanski is a TURN co-founder. Here he argues for alternative conflict management techniques in teacher negotiations, such as expanded scope and continuous bargaining, as a path to enhanced student learning.
- Understanding Teachers Contracts by Andrew J. Rotherham. This tool enables side by side analysis of a conventional teacher contract and a "thin contract" employed in the Green Dot Charter chain.
- TR3: Teacher Rules, Roles and Rights is the NCTQ data base of collective bargaining agreements and state policies for more than 100 of the largest school districts from all 50 states.
- Maine Labor Relations Board – In some states entities outside education policy provide FMCS type support for modern conflict management processes. Maine is one such state
- Kansas National Education Association - About IBB – A state NEA affiliate encourages IBB
VI. Tools: Peer Assistance and Review
Peer Assistance and Review, or PAR, is a promising program to improve the teacher evaluation system and teaching quality more broadly. It puts teachers in charge of quality in the profession. By involving the union in every step of the process, and by ensuring high quality mentoring for both new teachers and struggling veterans, PAR ensures that due process is “baked in the cake”, thereby facilitating decisions about tenure, retention, and dismissal.
- Teacher to Teacher: Realizing the Potential of Peer Assistance and Review by Susan Moore Johnson, John P. Papay, Sarah E. Fiarman, Mindy Sick Munger, Emily Kalejs Qazilbash. This paper provides a broad overview of PAR, along with a number of key policy recommendations to facilitate the growth of PAR programs. It complements the Humphrey et al article below.
- Peer Review: Getting Serious About Teacher Support and Evaluation by Daniel Humphrey, Julia Koppich, Jennifer Bland and Kristin Bosetti. The authors find that Peer Assistance and Review as practiced in two California districts has a number of counterintuitive effects, including that Peer support and evaluation can and should coexist, peer review is far superior to principals‘ evaluations in terms of rigor and comprehensiveness, and that it leads to better collaboration between districts and unions.
- A User's Guide to Peer Assistance and Review. This website from The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education provides a comprehensive introduction to PAR. The team of authors is led by Susan Moore Johnson
Here are some interesting resources that provide background knowledge concerning strengthening unions through progressive action. The third resource, “Study: Effective Principals Embrace Collective Leadership” addresses how empowered teacher leaders enhance the success of administrators.
- Study: Effective Principals Embrace Collective Leadership: An expansive study devoted to examining the traits of effective school principals has found that high student achievement is linked to “collective leadership”: the combined influence of educators, parents, and others on school decisions.
- Collaborating with the enemy - Cooperation between a school district and its teachers shouldn’t seem noteworthy. In the late 1980s and much of the ’90s, some unions and districts experimented both with less adversarial approaches to collective bargaining and more substantive problem solving on issues such as lagging student achievement.
- Teachers Unions: Do They Help or Hurt Education Reform? – TURN founder Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester, NY local, participates in a challenging panel discussion on teacher unions and brings the reform voice to the debate.
VIII. Contracts“Reform style” contracts are one possible artifact of union reform. Here are some examples of well known contracts which incorporate the use of student achievement data in teacher evaluation. Please note that not all contracts of this sort are created equal. There is considerable variation in detail and the reader will have to use discretion concerning the effect of these details. I do not advocate these things; these are just resources so that the reader can stay current.
- ProComp is a groundbreaking compensation system that links teacher pay to the school district's instructional mission. Designed in a partnership between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools, ProComp has received national attention because it rewards teachers for their professional accomplishments while linking pay to student achievement.
- New Haven Pact Lays New Ground for Evaluations, Pay, Peer Assistance - by Stephen Sawchuk "The new contract transforms the role that teachers will play in our public schools," New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. "Rather than resisting change as some teachers associations have done in other parts of the nation, New Haven teachers have chosen to make change, to help direct change, to be the change."
- The Pittsburgh district and its American Federation of Teachers-affiliated local union have reached agreement on a five-year contract that contains three significant new pay elements: a school-based performance-pay plan, a pilot individual performance-pay plan, and a salary schedule that puts much more emphasis on student results rather than teacher credentials.
- IMPACT - The District of Columbia Public Schools Effectiveness Assessment System for School-Based Personnel: Through IMPACT, DCPS seeks to create a culture in which all school-based personnel have a clear understanding of what defines excellence in their work, are provided with constructive and data-based feedback about their performance, and receive support to increase their effectiveness.
- Collective Bargaining in Education - A collection of essays from the complete spectrum of opinion on teacher unions. Contains a valuable chapter on the history of teacher unionism, as well as Julia Koppich’s reflections on TURN.
- Restructuring Our Schools – Patrick Dolan is a fixture at TURN where he explicates structural elements of the education system and how these affect teacher unions. He is a real systems thinker.
- Getting to Yes – the classic work on IBB also contains valuable analysis of positional bargaining.
- United Mind Workers – another classic. First published in 1997, this book is way ahead of its time, and possibly our time as well.