Union and Managers Collaborate for Kids in Indiana

Feb. 19, 2010 — What happens when the school district administration and the educators’ union get together to try to improve schools with low student test scores?We’ll get an important answer to that question in Evansville, Indiana, this year because of the innovative work of the Evansville Teachers Association and school administrators.

The two sides worked over last summer to come up with a plan for two elementary schools and a middle school where scores on the state test were low and falling further.

“Most change is top-down. This works in reverse,” says professional development coach Deb Hartz describingthe way the union and administrators are working together.

The plan includes:

  • Up to 20 extra school days for students, and up to five more on top of that for teachers.
  • An extensive professional development program designed with strong teacher involvement.

“It makes such a difference for teachers to be involved in the decision-making process. It’s going to make our school stronger,” says Amanda Antey, a middle school social studies teacher.

The plan directly affects roughly 100 teachers and their 1200 students, and education support professionals are involved, too. The educators are paid for their extra work.

The program is funded with federal “stimulus” dollars, which could put its continuation in jeopardy once those temporary funds run out, but union President Keith Gambill hopes it will put Evansville in a good position to get more money from the federal “Race To The Top” program. “Given enough space, a school and staff can create a program that’s right for them, and we hope to prove that,” he says.

Read more on the Evansville project in the current issue (winter, 2010) of the Indiana State Teachers Association magazine, The Advocate.