Bargaining/Advocacy Advisory on Common Core State Standards
As the Common Core State Standards are implemented at the local level, local associations have an opportunity to craft implementation to best meet the needs of students and educators in each community. Whether a local bargains a contract or advocates with the school district, these “negotiation” strategies suggest opportunities to impact CCSS implementation.
NEA recommends the following topics be addressed in any collective bargaining agreement or policy guidance.
CCSS Leadership Committee
Since CCSS implementation is having a major impact on educators and students, the school district and association may want to create a joint leadership committee to oversee and address implementation issues. The leadership committee should have an equal number of educators and administrators. The language instituting the committee should also allow time for the committee to do its work and include a process for implementing committee recommendations. In a bargaining environment, the CCSS implementation parameters can be developed under the auspices of this committee or as separate provisions under the collective bargaining agreement. Also, the leadership committee should establish relationships with community stakeholders, such as the PTA and groups representing key subsets of students such as special education, gifted and talented, and English language learners, and consider community participation on subcommittees.
Community-related issues include:
- Curriculum changes and parental learning support at home
- Anticipated decline in student test scores on new tests and the impact on educator evaluations, school grading systems (where they exist), and possible negative news media stories.
- Budget implications of assessment costs, the need for improved technology, access to the internet, and translators for test-related materials
- Student keyboard proficiency - is a particular concern among younger students.
The CCSS Leadership Committee should also address issues that may fall outside the scope of a bargaining agreement, but that are important to successful implementation. These include communications with staff on implementation issues (the Association must also maintain adequate communications with members) and identify potential technology issues (lack of internet bandwidth, available hardware, software and funding).
School/Site-Based Decision Making
For more flexibility, a local might consider negotiating language that enables educators to address issues at the school building rather than district level. For instance, members in a school might negotiate site-specific planning/collaboration time, increased student learning time, professional learning communities, and professional development. Any changes to a master agreement, collective bargaining contract, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should be negotiated and only implemented after a majority vote of the members/educators in the building ( i.e. at least 75-80 percent vote). At both the school district and school level, it is important that all grade levels and disciplines are represented in the decision-making process or that there is a mechanism to ensure that all levels/disciplines have input.
Additional compensation in the form of direct pay or stipends should be provided if educators take on additional roles and responsibilities including mentoring roles, coaching, increased instructional time, or serving as subject area content or CCSS experts.
Professional Practice and Staffing Considerations
In many cases, current bargaining language or policy can be used to address implementation issues. One of the most important issues is providing time for teachers to learn and understand the new standards, and then collaborate to improve their practice. Depending on what is in the current contract or policy, existing contract language or policies may be adapted to the CCSS implementation environment or new language may be needed.
Key elements to address include:
- Increased planning/collaboration and/or professional development time. This process will be ongoing as the CCSS standards are implemented and should include:
- Time for teachers and ESPs to learn and implement changes to align curriculum with the standards
- Time and resources to improve practice
- Professional learning developed at the local level in collaboration with educators
- A focus on professional learning communities (PLC)
- A link from collaboration/planning work and PLCs to CCSS implementation
- Staffing considerations:
- Address if and how CCSS implementation will impact students and require additional support from other school employees such as counselors, therapists, and others.
- Address ESP workload or staffing issues that may result if ESPs have to provide additional support to some students and teachers.
- Reduce non-essential duties so educators can focus on Common Core implementation
- Budget for an Increased use of substitutes or “floaters” while educators are engaged in planning or collaboration time
- Enhanced professional roles, such as serving as content experts on CCSS standards, that offer additional compensation for these increased responsibilities.
- Class size best practices are even more important under CCSS implementation.
Relationship to Evaluation
The ability to negotiate or grieve evaluations varies by state and the local situation. However, Common Core implementation and new tests present new and significant challenges. In many cases, students’ proficiency rates may decline with the new tests. Furthermore, it is unclear whether value added or growth models used as a basis for evaluation will be aligned to factor in these new tests. Local affiliates should address this issue early on in the implementation process.
Even where evaluation or results aren’t subject to a standard impasse process, it is worth trying to secure protections. The following are some recommendations:
- A moratorium on high stakes decisions tied to student test scores, preferably for up to three years. Pilot programs should be established to identify problems.
- Prohibition on using student tests that aren’t aligned to CCSS for any high stakes decisions.
- Provision to ensure that student learning objectives (SLOs) or locally negotiated student growth measures are tied to teachers’ students. SLOs should be determined jointly at the local level whenever possible.
- Provision that no teachers will be penalized if their students have high absentee rates
- Right for teachers to review student rosters to ensure they are correct or to identify high student absences
- Determination of how team teaching and ELL student results will be addressed
- Impasses/Due Process Protections that address problems with evaluation systems related to testing and include a method to resolve disputes about student attribution and technological issues that may affect students’ ability to take the test without interruption (hardware issues, access to internet, technological glitches).
For more information about NEA’s position and recommendations about evaluation, please see NEA's Teacher Evaluation and Accountability Toolkit.
For examples of language to support CCSS implementation, please contact the NEA Department of Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy (CBMA). CBMA is compiling language to share with affiliates. Please forward any relevant examples to NEA’s Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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