from an expert in the field:
Norm Scott is a founding member of the Grassroots Education
Movement, producers of the film The Inconvenient Truth Behind
Waiting for Superman (
JULY DEBATE RESULTS:
Are biofuels actually
a good idea?
AN EXPERIENCED, SENIORITY-BASED teaching force is essential for
building a top-rated educational system. Research shows that teacher
experience is one of only two observable factors that consistently lead to
higher student achievement (class size is the other). An example is the
1985 to 1989 Project STAR Tennessee experiment where kindergarten
students had higher achievement and earnings as adults, depending on
how long their teachers had been in the profession, with gains for every year up to 20.
Teachers who feel secure in their rights often are the strongest advocates for their students,
even when coming up against their supervisors. Newer teachers also benefit from the mentoring they receive from their senior peers.
Modifying seniority rights will seriously endanger teaching as a viable career and the interests of children. Without seniority rights, teachers would be susceptible to arbitrary layoffs
based on race, sexuality, politics or advocacy for children and/or parents. Higher-salaried teachers would also become a target. It is no accident that states that are the most restrictive of teachers’ unions have the poorest results on student SAT and ACT exams. In Finland, where more
than 95 percent of teachers are unionized, student achievement is the highest in the world.
The argument that seniority rights protect bad teachers is false. Every school district has
procedures for getting rid of unqualified or incompetent teachers.
The biggest danger to education is turnover. Fifty percent of new teachers leave within the
first six years, costing school districts as much as $17,000 to recruit, hire and train each
replacement teacher. Removing seniority rights would create an even higher turnover rate, the
cost of which would be devastating—not only financially, but for students.
After teaching for almost 30 years at the same school, I know the positive impact a stable
teaching force has on an impoverished community. The fact that I was able to develop long-term relationships with parents, siblings and even children of former students who were in my
class created a stable and secure environment for many of these students.
Layoffs must be based on seniority. It’s the only method that benefits teachers, communities and students over the long run. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by July 18, 2011.
JUNE DEBATE RESULTS:
Should you seek medical
YES: 87% NO: 13%
Percentage reflects votes received by
June 30, 2011. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
AS A CLASSROOM TEACHER, I know that both my successes and my
shortcomings as an educator can dramatically impact the lives of the children who sit in my classroom each day. So, as word of potential teacher
layoffs has spread, as well as the fact that the most recently hired teachers
would be the first to go, I wondered why the quality of my teaching
doesn’t factor into these critical decisions about who stays and who goes.
With New York City, for example, facing more than 4,000 teacher layoffs this year, we
cannot wait any longer to end a system that fails to put the interests of kids first and change
the current seniority-based layoff rules. I, and my like-minded colleagues, believe that if layoffs have to happen, our success in the classroom—not just the years we’ve logged in the system—should be the basis for these tough decisions.
So-called “Last In, First Out” rules devalue the contributions teachers make to the classroom and send entirely the wrong signal to those educators who are making dramatic progress with their students.
Some argue that, in the absence of unbiased teacher evaluations, “Last In, First Out” is the
only fair way to conduct layoffs and protect teachers from principal popularity contests.
While we agree that teachers need much stronger evaluations, there are other objective
factors that districts can use in layoff decisions.
We have recommended letting go of those teachers with a large number of unexplained
absences, teachers with unsatisfactory performance ratings and those educators receiving full
pay and benefits without holding full-time positions. By dismissing these teachers first, layoffs
could be done with the least impact on students.
The current fiscal crisis has made teacher layoffs a reality across the country. As a result,
state and city governments need to work together with unions to change the quality-blind
system of layoffs. We must send a strong message to both current and prospective teachers
that performance matters. It’s only fair that we be judged on the quality of our teaching and
the growth of our students, not just on our years in the system. C
Sydney Morris is co-founder of Educators 4 Excellence
www.educators4excellence.org), an organization of education
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented and
are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.
AUGUST 2011 The Costco Connection 17