Partnership Zone in Practice: What Could This Mean For You? Part Four
Recently, Secretary Lowery designated four schools as members of Delaware’s statewide Partnership Zone Initiative, an ambitious effort to transform the academic outcomes of students at our persistently low-performing schools. Secretary Lowery chose each of the four campuses based upon regulations outlined in Delaware’s Education Administrative Code. Once chosen for participation, each school is required to engage in a 90-day process in which they chose a school turnaround model and develop plans to implement aggressive reforms, such as alternative curricular models and job-embedded professional development.
One component outlined in regulations that will have significant impact on the day-to-day operations within Partnership Zone schools is issues around collective bargaining. School districts and teachers’ unions are required to enter into collective bargaining agreements regarding the terms and conditions of employment. In Delaware, these address topics including wages, hours, working conditions, instructional time, and grievance procedures.
Regulations state that school-union-DOE agreements for PZ schools must address subjects in collective bargaining agreements that inhibit schools’ successful implementation of its model, including the following:
· Limitations on hiring, reassigning and transferring covered employees into and out of the Partnership Zone school, such as seniority limitations;
· The methodology for determining which teachers will be transferred or reassigned as part of the model;
· Work rules relating to the educational calendar and scheduling of instructional time and non-instructional time,
· Retention and employment incentives, including performance incentives for effective teachers and principals.
In a world of increasing complexity and global competitiveness, we need to remove the burdensome, and potentially counterproductive, requirements placed on teachers and replace them with policies affording greater autonomy and support in exchange for increased performance accountability.
Fortunately, Delaware Partnership Zone schools and districts will not be required to navigate this new terrain in isolation. Numerous examples around the country, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, New Haven Public Schools, and Green Dot Public Schools, offer examples of CBAs that provide increased flexibility deemed necessary to successfully engage in turnaround efforts. Examples of topics tackled within these contracts and others include mutual consent, last hired/first fired, flexible scheduling and teacher compensation.
Partnership Zone Schools have an unprecedented opportunity to address policies that may limit the potential of our teachers. Removing these barriers will be important step towards treating teachers as professionals and – we hope—a demonstration for increasing student achievement throughout all our schools.