Mayor Bloomberg, union OK merit pay for teachers

, October 18, 2007

   Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced yesterday that he and United Federation of Teachers President Rand               Weingarten have reached a deal on a $20-million-a-year merit pay program for 200 of the city's highest-need                schools.

   The bonuses would not be linked to individual student or classroom performance, but to schoolwide gains as                   measured by the city's new progress report system. The specific criteria for winning extra funds still are being               determined, and the proposal needs state approval.

    The concept of merit pay linking teacher compensation to student achievement is debated among many educators,          labor leaders and politicians. Labor unions, including the National Education Association and the American                   Federation of Teachers, oppose the idea of tying a teacher's paycheck to how well their students do on tests

     Weingarten, who also is a vice president of the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers, said she              does not support linking individual class or student performance to teacher compensation.

     The deal outlined yesterday is different, she said. "When a school works as a team, when teacher voice is                     respected, when people are collaborative in partnership, schools succeed - and that's how you use incentives,             to help make schools succeed," she said at City Hall.

      Bloomberg said he believes in using rewards to encourage individual employee performance, but said schools             are different because educators often share responsibilities.

    "It's really hard to tell whether it is just you and your students, or whether it's other teachers in the school that                  support you - may in fact have the kids for parts of the day that you don't have them," he said. "And so having a            schoolwide system does make some sense."

     New York City's education system has 1,450 schools, 80,000 teachers and more than 1 million students, with an            annual budget of $17 billion.

     Under the plan, each school would appoint its own four-person committee of two UFT members and two principals        as representatives who would decide how to divide any money that is awarded.

     Those compensation committees could choose to spread funds evenly throughout the school or to give more to               individual teachers who have shown particular progress. Seniority cannot be a factor in handing out the extra               pay, the deal says.

     Each qualifying school has a choice of whether to opt into the program. The first year of bonuses will be paid with           private money, followed by public funding if it is deemed successful.