Progress depends on teachers Union action: School reform threatened by dispute over linking pay raises to evaluations.

September 04, 1997

TEACHERS HAVE ALWAYS been apprehensive about the legal settlement that meant better funding and sweeping management changes to Baltimore schools. Now, the teachers' union says the settlement has a flaw so great it won't cooperate in reforms, but will ask members to do the minimum required under its old contract.

The problem stems from the way legislation setting school reforms in motion passed Annapolis. The court settlement concluded that teachers must be paid more as an incentive to work in urban systems with students who suffer myriad economic and social maladies. But the legislation tied any pay raise for city teachers to their acceptance of evaluations based in part on student test scores. That is not too much to ask, but the union doesn't agree.

Union president Marcia Brown says she doesn't "know why Baltimore City teachers should be held to a different standard than other teachers in the state."

Why shouldn't Baltimore be a pioneer? Student achievement requires good teachers who know they are worth more than those who do only enough to get by.

To protest the lack of a new contract that increases teacher pay, the union wants members to "work to rule." They won't monitor lunchrooms or stay late for meetings with parents.

The union does its members a disservice by supporting a system that would give no greater reward to good teachers than it does bad.

The teachers' frustration at not playing a larger role in determining the terms of the lawsuit settlement is understandable. They are essential to the agreement's success. But their decision to stand in the way of progress to make a point that isn't valid is wrong.

No one is saying student test scores should be the only criteria for setting teachers' pay, but the scores should be used as one of several important indicators of whether a teacher is doing what he or she is paid to do -- teach.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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