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Pilot school agreements (Boston and Los Angeles)
In 1994, Boston Public Schools designed “pilot schools” in an effort to retain teachers and students after the Massachusetts legislature passed a state chartering law in 1993. Under the pilot agreement, the BPS Superintendent delegates authority to pilot schools’ governing boards to try new and different means of improving teaching and learning in order to better serve at-risk urban students. The potential exists for the boards to informally transfer that decision-making authority to the group of teachers at the school. Some boards have done this, to varying degrees.
In 2007, the United Teachers of Los Angeles and the surrounding community launched the Belmont Zone of Choice, modeled after Boston Pilot Schools. After initial success, UTLA “overwhelmingly” voted to expand the number of schools in 2009. In 2010 a new Kennedy Zone of Choice emerged and in 2013 a third option opened in the Sotomayor Zone of Choice. In 2015, there are now 18 Zones of Choice that house small school options for students including 50 pilot schools in Los Angeles. Some of these pilot schools have chosen to have teacher-powered school governance structures.
All Boston Pilot Schools take part in a network led by the Center for Collaborative Education. CCE provides schools with coordination support and assistance, including coaching services, professional development, advocacy, and research and evaluation. CCE was also involved in the development of Los Angeles’s pilot model.
As part of this work, CCE developed the Five Conditions of Autonomy for schools that are espoused in both the Boston and Los Angeles pilot school agreements (memorandums of understanding, or MOUs), which are arranged between the school district and the union. The five conditions include: staffing, budget, curriculum & assessment, governance, and school calendar. In addition to the MOU, teachers at each Boston and Los Angeles pilot school collectively write an Elect to Work Agreement (EWA) for their site on an annual basis that outlines the working conditions at the school. In Los Angeles, these EWAs are also approved by their union, UTLA. This is a means to exercise more autonomy at the school level, at the will of the teachers.
The EWA is voted on by the teachers at the site, and teachers who do not agree to work under the conditions will enter the district’s hiring pool and default to the working conditions outlined in the existing collective bargaining agreement.