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Teacher Quality Report Exposes Tensions in Hartford Schools
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In Hartford, a new report about teacher quality has brought out simmering tensions between the teachers union, district administration, and parents.

The Washington-based National Council on Teacher Quality found that state laws and contract requirements are actually hindering efforts to improve education. The report calls for more classroom time, half as many sick days for teachers, and more flexibility for principals in hiring decisions. 

Andrea Johnson is the president of Hartford's teachers union.  She says the new report has elicited a strong response among members.

"Anger. Anger, anger, anger. Because they feel like they're being told they're second-class citizens by a group who are not even educators."

She says it was inappropriate for researchers to look into contract issues, and that the report undermines the union.

"Folks need to point their finger when things don't go right at something. And unfortunately in education today, fingers are pointed to the teachers."

In a statement, Hartford Public Schools said it welcomed the findings, and that they would be "a useful tool" to prepare for contract negotiations in the fall of 2010. Superintendent Stephen Adamowski is on the advisory board of the national organization that published the report. 

Local parents were also heartened by the report. Milly Arciniegas is the president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council. It used to be called the Hartford PTO -- but they recently took out the "T" for teachers. Arciniegas says it's time to answer the questions raised by this report.  

"Can we find a way to help principals dismiss these ineffective teachers that we have in the system? Ineffective tenured teachers."

These tensions are surfacing just as teachers at 35 Hartford schools have started voting about whether they want to add 45 minutes to their workday and get an eight percent bump in pay. The district says more instructional time will increase student achievement. Andrea Johnson says her union is absolutely against it.