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Union-Management Collaboration Shows Promise for Improving Schools

Too often changes in education come from the top down, teachers have little say in the process, and results are mixed. But when unions and district leaders partner together in innovative ways they can effectively and sustainably raise student achievement.

These are some of the preliminary results from a study led by Rutgers Professor Saul Rubenstein, showing that union-management partnerships are a promising alternative to narrow market-driven or accountability strategies for reform.

The quality of the partnership between teachers and administration at a school was found to be key in improving student achievement, and in one case accounting for up to a 45-point improvement on the state’s academic performance index.

The study found four important factors that enabled collaboration.

  1. The motivation to collaborate on both sides.
  2. An emphasis on working together on substantive issues, such as evaluation plans, curriculum, and professional development.
  3. Systems that support teachers and administrators learning the same information at the same time and building working relationships.
  4. Support from the wider community, local board of education, and national union.

The quality of the partnership at a school was rated by the teachers, and the study showed that the partnership rating was related to the frequency of union representatives’ conversations with the principal.

At high-partnership schools, union representatives and principals had at least weekly, if not daily, formal and informal conversations. In low-partnership schools, the conversations often took place less than weekly and were more likely to be formal.

The complete study will be released by the Center for American Progress within the next two months.

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