Report: Labor-Management Collaboration Essential to Reform

A new report by the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy has found that the successful labor-management collaboration in a Massachusetts public school district has been essential to advancing educational reforms focused on improving student achievement.

The report – Labor-Management-Community Collaboration in Springfield Public Schools – found that Springfield made significant progress in implementing education reform despite being the sixth poorest city in the U.S. and recording a high turnover of teachers and superintendents.

Despite these obstacles, the report identified several fronts on which the Springfield Public Schools and the Springfield Education Association teachers union have made progress.

These areas include:

  • Fostering a culture of collaboration focused on student achievement
  • Institutionalizing school and district collaboration to sustain progress through changes in personnel and education policy
  • Developing a new definition of successful schools focused on student achievement and establishing clear goals for achieving success
  • Implementing a rigorous new teacher evaluation system
  • Creating a new school-based professional development system

Chad d'Entremont, Executive Director of the Rennie Center, said:

"The kind of cooperation we are witnessing in Springfield – which is not found in most urban school districts – is going to be ever more essential for coming educational reforms designed to ensure all children have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.

"Massachusetts' successful Race to the Top proposal, with its aggressive plan for improving school leadership and educator excellence, will require big changes in school culture and educational practices. Superintendents, principals, and educators at all levels will need to be able to work together to succeed in this reform."

Dr. Alan Ingram, the Superintendent of Springfield Public Schools, said:

"Forming a strong working relationship with teachers is not an option but a necessity for long-term success in improving student achievement. Collaboration and cooperation are hard work but the payoff of getting everyone working together toward common goals is enormous."

Tim Collins, President of Springfield Education Association, said:

"Teachers want to be respected and included in decision-making, and they bring invaluable first-hand knowledge of the classroom and larger environment in which students learn.

"The work that we have done in Springfield to date is proof positive that teachers can be effective partners with superintendents and principals in applying this knowledge to advance even difficult reforms."

The Rennie Center served as a neutral third-party facilitator in bridging differences between the Springfield union and administration as part of its efforts to bridge the divide between educational research and policy.

The Center plans to expand this critical service in a new initiative – Collaborating for Student Achievement (CSA) – in which it is partnering with Community Matters to work with school districts in Massachusetts and nationwide to effectively implement labor-management-community collaboration to advance student achievement.

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