Lose a mile, give an inch

Give them credit for progress-even if it's painfully incremental. In a decidedly uncharacteristic move, the Washington D.C. Teachers' Union approved a new contract that will introduce bonus incentives for teachers and give principals more autonomy at a handful of pilot schools. The union's president, George Parker, says that the changes are necessary if the city's public schools are to remain competitive with D.C. charters, whose attendance has jumped by 70 percent over the past five years, giving them approximately 25 percent market share of the public school population. D.C. Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said, "You can't move a reform agenda unless you have a genuine relationship with the union." What he couldn't say is that such a relationship is much more likely when the union is feeling the heat. Parker is more honest: "The landscape has changed. Our parents are voting with their feet. As kids continue leaving the system, we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in D.C. schools so we'll have teachers to represent." Eureka! But Mr. Parker, we're doubtful that allowing reform at less than dozen schools is likely to stem the tide. Still, you get an "A" for attitude.

"District Briefing: Teachers Approve Contract," by V. Dion Haynes, Washington Post, June 8, 2006

"Bonuses, Relaxed Rules Proposed," by V. Dion Haynes, Washington Post, June 6, 2006