A landmark three-year contract agreement announced today [Thursday, February 8] by the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) and the Board of Education would achieve high quality teaching by greatly expanding the role of teachers in curriculum and program design, local academic planning, and professional development focused on improved instruction and student achievement.
The agreement -- approved last night by the union's representative assembly and now subject to a ratification vote by the union membership and the Board of Education -- provides a unique combination of salary improvements, expansion of the work year, and new initiatives designed to enhance the professional career of teaching. The agreement calls for greater collaboration and responsibility among teachers and other educators for the improvement of individual schools, support for new teachers, and intervention for at-risk teachers.
The contract establishes the concept of a "professional learning community" in every school to respond to rigorous student achievement standards by providing additional time and opportunity for teachers to work with one another, plan as an instructional team, observe other teachers' teaching strategies, and critique each other's work.
Combined with salary enhancements -- a 5 percent increase in the first year (with 4 percent from the county and 1 percent from the state's Teacher Salary Challenge Program) and an effective 5 percent increase in both second and third years that includes a 1-percent salary increase for the two new work days in each year -- the new agreement would create one of the most attractive contracts in the nation for the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.
"We knew that in order to remain competitive both professionally and financially we would have to negotiate what can only be called a landmark agreement," said Board of Education President Nancy J. King. "With this agreement, we can ensure that our teachers have the time and opportunity to use their expertise in the best possible manner under the best possible circumstances to create the improvements necessary for improved student achievement."
The concept of ongoing professional development learning about successful strategies and best practices and being accountable for student achievement is greatly enhanced in the agreement. A total of four new workdays during the school year (two each in the second and third years of the agreement) will be devoted exclusively to expanding the involvement of teachers in individual and collective instructional improvements.
"This agreement connects the focus on student achievement with concrete support for teachers," said Mark Simon, MCEA president. "Building a professional learning community in each school is the key to the improvement of teaching quality, and with this agreement, MCPS becomes one of the few districts nationally that has placed collaboration between the union and the administration and teacher quality at the center of reform efforts."
The national significance of the agreement is enhanced by the element of continued collaboration between the teachers union and school system management in finding ways to raise academic standards and close the gap in student achievement by race and ethnicity.
"The contract helps set the stage for significant advancements in the teaching profession, and teachers have responded with creativity and resourcefulness in their commitment to the improvements we need in our schools," said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools.
The financial cost of the agreement is consistent with the budget recommendations originally proposed by Dr. Weast in December. The first year cost is $30.2 million in county funding plus $6 million in state funding. The second year is $34.9 million, followed by $35.7 million in the third year. The Board of Education is prepared to adopt the final agreement, pending a vote ratification by the MCEA membership expected later this month.
The school system hired more than 3,700 new teachers over the last three years, and another 1,400 teachers are expected to be hired for next year. More than 10,000 teachers and other instructional personnel are covered by the contract.
Contract Highlights Include:
* Adds a total of four workdays (two in the second year and two in the third year) to focus on improving instruction and student achievement.
* Increases continuity of instruction by significantly reducing pullout training among teachers during school instructional days, and promotes job-embedded support by staff development teachers and professional training during the summer.
* Recognizes teacher instructional leadership at the school level, including compensation for elementary team leaders and enhancing the role of secondary resource teachers and staff development teachers.
* Promotes faculty and staff involvement in curriculum development and assessment, consistent with the national management standards of the Baldrige National Quality Program.
* Initiates the development of "career ladder" program to recognize and reward excellence in teaching, promote instruction and leadership skills, and increase teacher responsibility for educational improvement.
* Strengthens the support of new teachers and at-risk teachers through the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program, which includes a panel of teachers and principals overseeing a cadre of consulting teachers who work on improving individual teaching practices at the classroom level.
* Enhances collaborative problem-solving processes in schools and the system.
* Provides a 5-percent salary increase each year for three years (including a 1-percent increase from the state in first year and 1-percent increase for additional workdays in each of the second and third years).