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Boston teachers’ contract: Beware of toxic ‘cure’

Even as the Boston Teachers Union offered late last week to make much-needed concessions in one key way, it muddied the waters in another.

The union has stated its willingness to accept a reasonable, six-year wage package partly in exchange for more leeway during the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system. Both sides now agree to adopt state regulations that would allow incompetent teachers to be dismissed in as little as 30 days if they fail to improve under a remediation plan. The regulations also provide techniques to help good teachers become even better.

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Yet in exchange, the union is pushing for so-called “model contract language,” also suggested by the state, that in practice would make the evaluation system hard to enforce; the language is rife with data requirements, timelines, and procedures that open the door for union grievances. The school department has a plan that avoids such pitfalls.

This contract is going to shape classrooms for years to come, and the city would be foolish to compromise on teacher quality. This bitter negotiation has dragged on for more than two years. Many in the Menino administration are eager for this headache to go away. The union is extending what looks to some like a cure. On closer inspection, it could prove toxic to the system.

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