Thursday, May 27, 2010

Joel Klein - We’re Firing the Wrong Teachers

STOP THE PRESSES!  Joel Klein with a brilliant article on the insanity and consequences of layoffs purely by seniority, yet another high crime the teachers unions are committing against kids:

Lewis, a third-year teacher, would be among the first to go of approximately 4,400 teachers who are vulnerable. Indeed, because of absurd seniority rules enshrined in our collective bargaining agreement, we have to fire junior teachers before we can lay off teachers who aren't even teaching. Or before we can lay off teachers already rated unsatisfactory.

We'd also be forced to keep teachers in what's called the "Absent Teacher Reserve" pool—a bureaucratic name for those let go from downsizing or closing schools but who remain on payroll. Many of these teachers haven't applied for new jobs despite losing their positions as long as two years ago. And many who have looked for a job can't find a school willing to hire them despite many vacancies. Yet none of these teachers can be laid off, even during a budget crisis.

Recently hired teachers are among our most passionate and creative, yet they make the least amount of money. Seniority-based layoffs therefore force us to discharge more teachers than layoffs based on merit. Fewer teachers mean class sizes could rise by as many as five students in some schools.

No neighborhood would be spared, but the hardest-hit area would be the Bronx, home to some of our most challenging schools and newest hires. Many of these schools have turned a corner and are now making incredible progress thanks to hard-working, recently hired educators.

In fact, a 2008 study in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management found that the gap in teacher quality between our lowest- and highest-poverty schools has narrowed significantly during the last decade, largely due to the hiring of more successful newer teachers. Layoffs determined only by seniority would push some of these teachers out of a job.

And some schools would be hurt much worse than others. A newly released study by the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington found that schools with high percentages of low-income and minority students are disproportionately harmed by seniority-based layoff rules as compared to schools with wealthier and fewer minority students. This is certainly true here in New York City; at schools with the highest percentage of black and Hispanic students, approximately 25 percent of teachers have less than two and a half years of teaching experience. Since we would be forced to get rid of these less-experienced teachers, schools with high-minority populations would disproportionately suffer disruptions to their learning environment.

Take P.S. 86 in the Bronx. The elementary school is 96 percent black and Hispanic, and would lose nearly 30 classroom teachers to layoffs based on seniority. By contrast, at P.S. 53 in Staten Island, a school that is less than 10 percent black and Hispanic, no teachers would be laid off.

Clearly, experience is important—but it's not the only ingredient that makes a great teacher. In the unhappy event that we are forced to lay off teachers, we should institute a system that would allow us to keep the best teachers in our classrooms and minimize the harmful impact of layoffs on our students.

…Teachers are professionals, and they deserve to be treated the way professionals in almost every other line of work are: evaluated based upon their work. Especially with our children's future at stake.

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