The Pew Forum on Standards-Based Reform has named the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) as one of 10 teams of educators from across the nation to help establish models for collaboration between administrators and teachers to improve student achievement.
The joint MCPS-MCEA team will present its findings and recommendations at a meeting next week to the Pew Forum's High Standards Contract Project at Harvard University. Representing the school system and the teachers union at the meeting on April 5-6 in Boston will be Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast, MCEA President Mark Simon, and Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers.
The High Standards Project, a program being sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, is working on identifying the elements of "labor-management relations and negotiated agreements that can nurture high performing schools, staff, and students in a standards-based learning environment designed to maximize student achievement."
The project chose Montgomery County and nine other school districts nationally to gain the perspectives of "district-union teams with broad experience in responding constructively to the challenges of collective bargaining."
Last month, the Montgomery County Board of Education and MCEA settled a landmark three-year contract agreement designed to achieve high quality teaching and learning by greatly expanding the role of teachers in curriculum and program design, local academic planning, and professional development.
The agreement 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 establishes 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 the second and third years that includes a 1-percent salary increase for the two new work days in each year -- the new agreement creates one of the most attractive contracts in the nation for the recruitment and retention of qualified teachers.