MCEA sometimes describes itself as “not your grandfather’s union.” One of the largest local affiliates of the National Education Association, MCEA strives to build a new kind of teachers’ union that responds to the needs of today’s educators. It is a union which is focused on the quality of teaching and learning, student achievement and social justice. It is a union that recognizes that the long term prosperity of our members depends on the success of our schools – and doesn’t want to leave that to chance.
We are more than 12,000 classroom teachers, guidance counselors, speech pathologists, media specialists, and other non-supervisory certificated educators in the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools system. We work in a rapidly urbanizing suburban district with a growing divide between the haves and have-nots. MCEA members teach over 150,000 students in 203 schools spread over 497 square miles. The district has densely populated low-income urban neighborhoods, sprawling suburban subdivisions, and rural agricultural towns. The County is majority-minority. The student population is 32% White, 27% Hispanic/Latino, 21% African-American, 14% Asian (and 6% other, or two or more). 43% of students have qualified for the federal Free and Reduced Meals (FARMS) program.
MCEA’s program is advanced through intentionally targeted, grown, and supported leadership development. The union is helping to build members into teacher leaders who are mentored through the union’s NBPTS network & candidate support program, through its work around equity and social justice, its work on curriculum and instruction, and its Leadership Team Institute. These teacher leaders – and union leaders – are interdependently connected through structures that engage the largest number of members possible in the issues most relevant to them – teaching and learning.
MCEA began this evolution more than 15 years ago, when it partnered with the school district in the redesign of the teacher evaluation system. That process, and the creation of a Peer Assistance and Review Program was foundational in transforming both the union’s relationship with the district and the union’s own identity as an authentic advocate for what is best for students. The MCEA/MCPS Teacher Professional Growth System is highly regarded; not only for its PAR program but also for its use of student data and feedback and its focus on professional growth and staff development. It is a system based on standards, not algorithms.
The impetus for the partnership was the union’s proposal and the Board of Education’s agreement to an interest-based bargaining process three years earlier. . With a significant investment of training, facilitation, and time, the process and the new contract were successful. This laid the foundation for the joint evaluation work and an array of other subsequent collaboration to advance the interests of our schools, our students, and the teaching profession.
MCEA’s Councils on Teaching and Learning engage members with the district in designing and improving curriculum and curricular resources. Members on MCEA’s Joint Collaboration Committees are engaged with district staff on specific program and content area policies and practices. Union leaders co-manage the evaluation system, and sit on both the Superintendent’s Executive Leadership Team and Budget Committee. A formal committee which includes the leadership of all three school system unions and the Superintendent’s three senior staff meet every two weeks; but the communication and joint work between the union and district staff is continuous. Principles of collaborative problem-solving and shared interests underlie the relationships between the union and the district.
MCEA’s current social justice work includes an innovative partnership (with McDaniel University) on a graduate Certificate on Equity and Excellence in Education, a joint project with a local Latino youth organization (Identity Inc.) to design cultural competency training curriculum to assist teachers in working better with Latino youth and families, as well as ongoing programing on the schools-to-prison pipeline.
MCEA’s new Career Lattice is being implemented first in 58 high poverty schools in order to attract and retain high performing teacher leaders in our highest needs schools.
MCEA is evolving beyond the service union model with which many are familiar. Because it is a large affiliate with multiple UniServ staff, MCEA has been able to reorganize its staff and differentiate their roles. Some staff focus on individual assistance. But now others (school assistance) focus on member engagement and relational organizing. They systematically do one-on-ones with members, developing and supporting school level reps in engaging members – both in local school decision-making and in the union.
MCEA has been building a web of creative and innovative approaches to:
- Teacher advocacy & professionalism
- Labor-management relations
- Teacher evaluation
- Leadership development, and
- Member relational organizing
Despite the rapidly growing income gaps in the county, MCPS has the highest graduation rate for African-American male students among the nation’s largest school districts. African-American and Hispanic student achievement on SAT tests exceed their peers nationally. The percentage of African-American graduates with at least one AP score of 3 or higher surpasses the national statistic for all graduates. And for several years in a row, more than 90% of kindergarten students meet or exceed reading proficiency targets. Persistent achievement gaps remain; but we believe our work contributes substantially to the growing success of our students.
2.0 a. MCPS Profile
2.1 a. Three Frames of Unionism
2.1 d. IBB Primer
2.2 a. MCEA Contract Excerpts
2.2 c. Leadership Team Institute
2.2 d. Leadership Opportunities
2.3 c. SLO FAQ
2.3 d. The Career Lattice
2.4 c. The Broad Acres Story
2.5 a. One on One Primer