Thursday, August 18, 2011

Layoff Teachers Based on Seniority or Effectiveness?

Posting for Monday, 8/15.

Listening to NPR this week and I heard about this debate. Yes, white people aren't the only ones who listen to NPR. Apparently, the current policy is to lay-off teachers based on seniority, i.e. new teachers get laid-off first. The proposed method would be to determine who to let go based on effectiveness. I'm not sure how that would be gauged but let's not get stuck on that for now. Reading a copy of Costco Connection I found the question posed to the readers as well. (It's from two or three issues back in case any of you guys are also Costco members and want to check it out. And if you hung on to that old issue.) Those who responded with 'seniority' gave reasons like:
-Teachers who have been there longer will have the experience and know-how to deal with the problems they face.

Basically, what you're saying is that teachers that have been around for a while will be more EFFECTIVE? Then what is your problem? Let effectiveness, i.e. merit, be the measuring stick, in that case. Their argument needs a new leg to stand on. I honestly don't understand how the ones who staunchly support a seniority based system can say they aren't self-serving.
Worst case scenario for a merit based system: The new teachers find they can't compete with the older and more experienced ones. Tough, but I'd want the best education for my kid and if it comes down to fighting for my child's education and future versus the teachers' livelihoods, naturally I choose my kid. Only the best stay.
Worst case scenario for a seniority based system: Driven and motivated, newer (not necesarily younger, though) teachers are booted off . The oldest stay, without any qualifications aside from years of service. Can't you just picture it? An cynical, jaded teacher whose spirit has been beaten down over the years by generation after generation of apathetic students slips by doing the minimum, resting easy knowing that as long as he doesn't break any laws or display overt negligence he will be able to keep hold of his job. Come on!

I don't see how this debate can't be phrased to ask: Which teachers should we keep? Older or better? That should be obvious, right?