Inflexible Contracts Hamper Excellence

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has an interesting new report that suggests school leaders have more discretion than previously thought:


In the era of No Child Left Behind, principals are increasingly held accountable for student performance. But are teacher labor agreements giving them enough flexibility to manage effectively? The Leadership Limbo: Teacher Labor Agreements in America’s Fifty Largest School Districts, answers this question and others.

The main findings:

  • Thirty, or more than half, of the 50 districts have labor agreements that are ambiguous. The collective bargaining agreements and the formal board policies in these districts appear to grant leaders substantial leeway to manage assertively, should they so choose.
  • Fifteen of the 50 districts are home to Restrictive or Highly Restrictive labor agreements. Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s African-American K-12 students population attend school in the 15 lowest-scoring districts-making these contracts major barriers to more equal educational opportunity.
  • The study also found that districts with high concentrations of poor and minority students tend to have more restrictive contracts than other districts-another alarming indication of inequity along racial and class lines.
  • The labor agreements of the nation’s 50 largest districts are particularly restrictive when it comes to work rules.
  • Most of these agreements are also quite restrictive when it comes to rewarding teachers for service in hard-to-staff subject areas such as math and science, with 31 actually prohibiting districts from doing so

However, none of the districts mentioned in the report are in Kansas–and even KCMO is not listed. So it’s hard to know to what extent the findings of this report are applicable to Kansas.  But it does ask questions that are worth considering nonetheless.

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