Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union calls for sweeping changes to how educators are evaluated and paid, and also offers a plan to restructure the Milwaukee Public Schools system.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council on Tuesday outlined a series of three proposals that include new ways to evaluate teachers, creates a system for performance-based pay, and breaks up MPS into new smaller districts.
The evaluation proposal would create a system in which new teachers are reviewed and aided by peers during their first three years on the job. WEAC President Mary Bell says it would allow potential problems with new teachers to be spotted early on and addressed, and offer ways to help educators improve if they appear to be ineffective in the classroom.
Veteran teachers would also be subject to reviews every three years under the plan. Bell says those who live up to the expectations of the profession could be removed, if they do not take steps to improve.
The proposal to move to performance-based pay would replace the current step-based salary system used by most districts in the state. Bell says the current method was developed to overcome the discrimination faced by many female teachers early on, by using experience and education alone to determine pay.
However, she says things have changed a great deal since those days, and there’s now a need to recognize the extra lengths some teachers go to in order to educate students. The performance pay proposal offered by WEAC would consider education and experience, but also recognize teachers working in difficult to serve schools and positions, those who take on leadership roles and teachers who achieve national certifications.
The final proposal offered by the group would restructure the Milwaukee Public Schools system by breaking it up into smaller units. Bell says the move would drive greater accountability and help to address the serious student performance issues that have been dragging the district down. She says it would also make the districts easier for communities to navigate and for families to get involved.
The restructuring would require action from the Legislature. The teachers union in Milwaukee has fought against previous efforts to overhaul the district. But Bell argues that MPS cannot be fixed in its current form. She says the needs of MPS students and their families need to be put ahead of what’s best for adults in the system.
The proposals mark a major change from previous positions taken by the union. They have raised some questions that the union is moving early, in anticipation of expected education reforms Republican Governor Scott Walker could soon propose. Bell says their ideas are needed to move education forward.