City Journal Autumn 2014

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Larry Sand
One Small Strike Against Teacher Seniority « Back to Story

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I am a teacher who has 16 years experience. The first 9 were spent in a low income, mostly immigrant community. I now teach in one of the better schools in the city. The current grading system measures progress over last years' standardized scores. Most of my students were in the 90th percentile. My task is more to keep them performing, not bring them along. There is not much room for growth. Under current methodology, I am considered a poor educator, because scores didn't measurably improve. The idea that all students have room for such considerable improvement assumes a priori that they aren't very good to begin with. I would get no raise or be let go under the reforms proposed.
I usually agree with this website about unions, but in the case of teacher seniority a little realism is in order. In the case of teachers, seniority is in itself one measure of quality. Teaching is a terrible way to earn a living. The pay is low, the parents are impossible, and administrators provide no support. Many teachers leave after a year or two for more humane situations. Anyone who stays in it has to love children. Most who stay in it counsel each other (since no one else will) about effective teaching methods and ways to deal with difficult situations. There are millions of teachers, so anyone with an axe to grind can find one or two ineffective oldsters to use as an example, but on the whole I'd say that anyone who can stay in teaching year after year is a keeper.
There is only one move and that is abolish public education and move to an online model. Schools will be entirely private enterprises with non-union professional workforces compensated on the basis of what people can afford to pay to educate their family members. These funds might be supplemented with some sort of untied block grant.
The total number of teachers required might be reduced by 50%.
Government no longer has the revenue to provide custodial services for a rabble enrollment. Education is a privilege and no "right".
Certainly complete education for the talented and the motivated.
Isn't last hired first fired how things are done in industry and business?
Why not level the playing field for teachers? Why not demand that students know English before they are enrolled? English Learner programs receive so much money, but there are no positive results because in spite of how hard teachers with CLAD/BCLAD certification work to teach this population, each day these students return to homes where parents speak no English, where there is no American cultural identity, where there is intense nationalism that rejects assimilation and disrespect for the rule of law, no support from parents with homework, etc. It's a tread mill. Once you level the student population field, only then will you be able to separate teachers by their merits.
Good teachers can and do speak up for themselves. And contrary to your conclusions, we do not see seniority-based layoffs as discriminatory to us. All layoffs are harmful to children, so if there is a culprit in all of this is the greed on Wall Street that contributed to the recession.

As a teacher in a school devastated by layoffs, and as a former teacher of the year and twice National Board certified teacher, I write about what "good teachers" think at the California Accomplished Teachers blog, Interact. Perhaps you should read it before speaking (writing) on our behalf. accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com
Public Unions are good for members and their greed for money and power.
Logic says the good stay and the bad go.
Why is our education system rated so low among western countries and cost the most?
Real changes are long overdue.
Also see who are the Union leaders and what they are paid.(e.g. NJ $550,000!Plus many perks I'm sure.
Vladimir Val Cymbal March 23, 2011 at 1:37 PM
Keeping teachers based on seniority is the epitome of a corrupt process. Years ago this was a big problem with the railroads. A policy change is required immediately. This change is not only in our schools but in our state government generally. Control of the schools needs to be on the local level. The first step is to eliminate the state school department. All that it does is distribute checks and mandates procedures. This can better be handled locally and save lots of money. Districts like the LAUSD are too big and cumbersome. They must be made to split into locally controlled and funded districts.