When school budgets shrink, principals and school districts want to be able to reduce the teaching force. (The reasons why there seems to be a perpetual budget crisis when it comes to public education are the subject of whole other blog posts.)
Unions will protect senior faculty because there is a justified fear that the most senior (expensive) teachers will always be the first to go, because beginning teachers start at the bottom of the pay scale and are cheaper to retain.
Schools will want to find a way to eliminate “dead wood”–that small percentage of teaching staff whose ineffectiveness, poor performance, or burned-out approach can’t be tolerated any longer. And while not all of these teachers are the ones who’ve been around longest, when they are, it’s possible to end up firing the least senior under “last hired, first fired” principles.
What’s the fairest way to make these determinations? While education activists agonize over the student dropout rate, there’s increasing concern about the teacher dropout rate–half of newly-minted teachers leave the profession within the first five years. NY’s state legislature has been grappling with these issues for the past few years. The last few bills have failed due to confusing and discredited methods of evaluating teachers.
The NYT’s has taken a stand on the various attempts of the legislature to grapple with this problem. Their position?
The state evaluation system will involve more intensive monitoring and would finally take student performance into account. Teachers would be categorized as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those who need help would be given it. Those rated ineffective for two consecutive years could be fired. Hearings would last no longer than 60 days.
It will take a Herculean effort to put this system in place. The Legislature should require all districts to subscribe right away, instead of rotating onto it as they negotiate new union contracts, as was specified under last year’s statute. The Legislature must make sure that the scoring system weighs student performance most heavily, so that unfit teachers aren’t allowed to remain on the job by performing well in peripheral areas. Finally, the Legislature must place reasonable limits on the time that teachers can spend appealing unfavorable ratings.
Take a look at the full editorial–what do you think?
And what do we need to do to stop state legislatures from cutting education spending first whenever there’s a budget crisis?