Hillsborough County Union head Jean Clements gets the star treatment in Newsweek

As anybody who has reported on why what Hillsborough is doing knows, a great deal of why Hillsborough is looked as a national leader is the almost unprecedented amount of cooperation between the school board, the administration, and the teachers union.

Jean Clements is the president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. In the current Newsweek, Clements gets prominent status  with a full sized photo (seen above) and an article about the local union she heads, right next to a first person narrative written by former Washington  D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee, who currently is advising Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott on education matters (as is MaryEllen Elia).

In the piece, Ms. Clements comes across as pretty tough talking, and absolutely not the caricature of what a teachers union boss is supposed to sound like:

While battles with the American Federation of Teachers earned D.C.’s former chancellor Michelle Rhee as many headlines as her bold overhaul of the schools, Hillsborough (the nation’s eighth-largest district) has made similarly dramatic gains with a lot less drama. In recent years, teamwork between the union and management has resulted in a longer, eight-hour school day; higher pay for the most effective teachers; and a comprehensive coaching program for struggling teachers. They have also worked together to refine a rigorous teacher-evaluation system that considers student-achievement gains along with the observations of principals and outside peer reviewers—a system not unlike the one Rhee established in D.C. last year.

While union leaders and superintendents in other cities waste time and money on protracted hearings to remove abusive and incompetent teachers, Hillsborough’s union chief and superintendent were able to agree on a common-sense approach years ago. “If you’re rated unsatisfactory two years in a row, you’re gone,” says union chief Clements. “If your rating is ‘needs improvement,’ your salary freezes, and if your performance doesn’t improve in a few years, you’re gone too. We think most people want to do a good job, and being confronted with data that you are not doing a good job is hard to ignore. People either change or leave.

The article does get one fact wrong - it lists St. Petersburg as being inside of Hillsborough County, instead of Pinellas.  Oh well.

At a meeting with members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commissioners, School Board Chair MaryEllen Elia and board member Dorothea Edgecomb took pride in announcing improved scores  with a number of public schools in the county.

16 of 27 traditional high schools improved at least one letter grade, including eight that earned A's, up from two last year.  Three of those schools - Blake, East Bay & King, made dramatic improvements, going from "D" schools all the way up to being classified as an "A" school.

"Yeah, we are proud, " Edgecomb said on Tuesday.

Middleton High School went from a D to a C school, meaning it will get a reprieve and be taken off the state's "intervene" list.

Edgecomb also said that amongst the largest school districts in the state, Hillsborough's graduation rates are one of the highest in Florida (82.3%), and drop-out rate (0.7%) is amongst the lowest in the state.

Meanwhile, the Hillsborough County School District, the recipient of a $100 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last year based on its creative experimentation with teacher pay and development, continues to attract national attention.

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