Taking the easy way

Is it ethical for teachers with seniority to refuse to teach in high-poverty schools? Alex Russo posts a discussion on This Week in Education. This is a huge issue: Due to seniority rules and the absence of extra pay for extra-hard assignments, the neediest students consistently get the least experienced, least effective teachers.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Seniority has always been a way to bid the nice jobs. Make teaching the needy nice, and they will bid into it.

  2. Miller Smith says:

    If you keep the same pay scale and make it non-voluntary, then those senior teachers will just up and leave. You are saying to them,”We’re going to move you to the hardess jobs for the same pay as the easier jobs when we feel like it.” If other school systems don’t do the same, then you will end up with your system having no senior level teachers–especially in science, math, and SPED.

    An example of this dynamic occurs here in Maryland. Prince George’s County Public Schools pays more than most counties, but still loses teachers to surrounding counties that pay less. These experienced and newer teachers cite the chaos and violence, the incompetent human resources department, and the non-responsive admin as their reasons for leaving.

    The economics of this is you can’t make a person with choices do a harder job for the same money when they’ve been doing the easier job.

    How about this? Write a contract for those harder positions with the pay scale that generates qualified applicants until you have at least two applicants for every position (who knows what that $ amount will be!).

    Oh yeah…and honor the contract.

  3. Mr. Davis says:

    What do ethics have to do with union workers? Work to the contract.

  4. Miller Smith says:

    Hmmm. Declaring that we will fulfill our contract exactly to the letter is seen by the likes of you as being unethical.

    You have a very strange notion of ethics.

    Oh, and you don’t feel you should honor a contract. Yep. Some strange ethics indeed.

    How about this hotshot-you pick the grade level, subject, and SES of students and define what the job is when the job is done, exactly what the duties of the teacher should be, percentage of the teacher’s income the teacher must spend on the class, and put a price on it. Think of it as writing a contract and then putting it out for consideration by prospective teachers you would like to hire.

    Let’s see if you have a clue of the dynamics and foundational concepts you think allows you to be so smarmy.

    This should be good…

  5. Uhhh, Miller? Who are you responding to? Or is this just some generalized spleen-venting?

  6. How exactly does one determine which students are the neediest? It always bugged me in high school that so much attention was placed on the poorly performing students so that high-scoring students were ignored.

    Let’s say a teacher has 5 extra minutes of class time–who would benefit the most from a little time one-on-one with a teacher? The punk student that doesn’t care, doesn’t show up for class half the time, and is borderline failing? Or the straight-A student, who would listen avidly, hanging on to that teacher’s every word, and actually learn something from the lesson?

    Why do most people decide the poorer student would benefit most from the help? Most of the bad students I knew in high school were bad because they didn’t bother doing such mundane things as homework or studying, and they weren’t too big on listening to the teacher either.

    I think the best teachers in the district should go to the best students. Not only because the better students will listen and learn better, but as a reward for working so hard.

  7. Allen? Hearing voices again? It’s pretty clear that Miller is addressing Mr. Davis. Or didn’t you bother to read the whole comment thread before posting?

    The usual trend, it seems.

  8. Mr. Davis says:

    Just stop taking my property tax money to pay for dysfunctional schools and I’ll be able to find teachers without unions and with ethics pretty quickly. It is when deadwood can hide behind tenure rules, legalized cartels, and shop stewards that we get the contract to be worked to instead of a vocation to be fulfilled.

  9. Correct, Mr. Davis. And many many public school teachers would agree w/you. 40% or so of the NEA are Republicans, and more teachers than you’d imagine detest much of what the union stands for.

  10. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Eliminate compulsory unionism and the agency shop.

  11. Miller Smith says:

    Why Mr. Davis! You WON’T havea contract with the teacher you privately hire? WOW!

    How will the teacher know what the job is you want done?

    How will you know that the job is finished?

    How will you know what to pay?

    Mr. Davis, you will have to deal with a contract with any private school or individual teacher no matter what you think. All that has to exist are the elements of a contract. Paper not needed.

    If you get sued by your private teacher for non-payment, what will you tell the judge? “Well your honor, the private teacher I hired didn’t spend her own money on my child, didn’t work round the clock and on weekends, and didn’t do the job until completion (even thought I don’t know when done is done and I won’t say what it is anyway), so I didn’t pay her. Hell, She just does do enough free things I never bargined for so she gets no pay at all.”

    You’d be dead meat and have to pay triple damages to boot. And if you don’t realize, no union was involved.

    Contracts are how we do things in the United States Mr. Davis. You should know that by now.

    I still want to see the contract you’d offer a private teacher. How much will you pay? Defind “the job” to be done. Detail all the duties you want the teacher to perform.

    Oh, and when you won’t honor that contract you made (since you don’t feel contracts should be honored), what will you tell the court?

    My bet is you have nothing! Nothing! You’re all hot air and resentment without anything of substance to contribute.

  12. Independent George says:

    I never thought I’d be saying this, but I actually agree with the union on this. You can’t force a teacher to work in a particular school; and if you try, all you’ll get is a lot of good teachers quitting.

    On the other hand, I’m willing to bet that the union has also fought differential pay tooth and nail, which seems to be the obvious solution here. Start offering more money to the toughest assignments (which is what generally happens in the private sector), and you should see some improvements.

  13. Mr. Davis says:

    It’s amazing, Mr. Miller; private schools work without unionized teachers every day! And they do a better job of educating students, in many cases at lower cost! People even pay a lot so they won’t have to send their children to schools where union workers work to the contract!

    I’m not worried about being sued by the teacher because I don’t hire them, the school does. And the contract they use is a couple of pages that don’t really define the job or detail the duties only terms and conditions of employment, legal requirements, that sort of thing. That’s the way employment contracts work for professionals.

    Lots of employers used to hire employees who were unionized. Most of those industries turned out increasingly uncompetitive products and are now producing their product elsewhere without union assistance.

    Am I resentful? Sure I resent having my tax money taken from me involuntarily and given to union workers who are forced to give a cut to the union to pay off legislators to pass laws keeping their jobs secure while the quality of education in this country continues to decline. A lot of people resent it. Try to remember what happened to all those other unionized industries. It will happen to teachers too, someday.

    And if I have so little of substance to contribute, why does it take so much verbiage to refute it?

  14. Miller Smith says:

    [It’s amazing, Mr. Miller; private schools work without unionized teachers every day! And they do a better job of educating students, in many cases at lower cost! People even pay a lot so they won’t have to send their children to schools where union workers work to the contract!}

    You mean that private school teachers don’t work under contract!?!?!? Are you kidding? Are you for real? You mean that you would demand from this private school things not in the contract you make with the private school? Do you mean that the private school employer should violate the private contract with the teacxher it hired in order to force those teachers to give you things YOU DIDN’T PAY FOR?!?!?

    Why yes. Yes you do. You don’t honor contracts.

    [I’m not worried about being sued by the teacher because I don’t hire them, the school does. And the contract they use is a couple of pages that don’t really define the job or detail the duties only terms and conditions of employment, legal requirements, that sort of thing. That’s the way employment contracts work for professionals.]

    Ahh! So the teacher won’t sue you but it’ll be fine and dandy that the school sue you? Right? When you demand something from the school you contracted to teach the child you teach to honor no contract (I can guess what your credit rating is) that you din’t contract for and then NOT PAY YOUR BILL, what will you tell the court then?

    You are so wrong about what a teacher’s contract is How about you read mine. Your ignorance is seriously sad. Here, read one–>http://www.montgomerycountyea.org/teampublish/uploads/02-04contract.pdf

    Hell Mr. Davis, the dang thing is 168 pages long!

    Plese tell me in the age of the internet you didn’t check to see a real public school teacher’s contract before you ran your mouth…oh!…you did!

    [Lots of employers used to hire employees who were unionized. Most of those industries turned out increasingly uncompetitive products and are now producing their product elsewhere without union assistance.]

    Unions are a big part of the problem in education. That is why they should die. My problem with you is you don’t have any honor for agreements and contracts. You think you should get stuff from teachers for free. Well let’s see what you get for free in the private sector hotshot!

    [Am I resentful? Sure I resent having my tax money taken from me involuntarily and given to union workers who are forced to give a cut to the union to pay off legislators to pass laws keeping their jobs secure while the quality of education in this country continues to decline. A lot of people resent it. Try to remember what happened to all those other unionized industries. It will happen to teachers too, someday.]

    Let’s hope so.

    [And if I have so little of substance to contribute, why does it take so much verbiage to refute it?]

    Thank you for your tacit admission that my excess verbage has refuted your argument. Now why do I? Because it’s FUN!

  15. Mr. Davis says:

    Mr. Smith, I suggest you get some remedial reading assistance or not post when drunk. Detailing and correcting your errors might result in something longer than your contract.

  16. Steve LaBonne says:

    I hate to break this to you, Miller, but the vast majority of employees in this country don’t have employment contracts. That includes not only private employees but nonunion public employees like me. The private workers are almost all at-will employees. I am not quite that, I theoretically have some mild civil-service protections- but they really would amount only to requiring a little extra paperwork to fire me. My job security and salary protection come from the facts that I’m highly qualified, very good at what I do, and would be very difficult to replace. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only kind of job security I would want to have.

  17. Steve LaBonne says:

    P.S. That superintendent has his head up his nether orifice. I have no doubt at all that lots of good and dedicated teachers would love to have an opportunity to make a difference for the kids who need them the most. But they know they can’t accomplish anything in the conditions of violence, chaos and (closely related to the above) _administrative_ incompetence and bloody-mindedness that prevail in all too many inner-city schools. Trying to force them, as others have noted, can’t work.

  18. SuperSub says:

    Maybe I’m just not experienced enough Mr. LaBonne, but I’ve worked 4 separate non-union jobs and they all had a contract. Two of my friends, who’ve worked elsewhere in different non-union jobs, have also worked under contracts. While these contracts are not volumous descriptions of every single detail concerning our employment, they do establish basic requirements and duties for our job, and outline our pay and benefits. In three of the jobs, they were merely single sheets of paper that I had to sign, yet they functioned as a contract.

  19. Miller Smith says:

    Mr. LaBonne, all empoyees have a contract. The employer makes an offer. The employee and employer have a “meeting ofthe minds”. Second they have an offer and acceptance. Third there is mutual consideration-the exchange of things of value-in this case the employee’s work for the employer’s money. And forth is performance or delivery.

    It is not required that anything be put on paper. There is not a single employee in the United States that works without an emp[loyment contract. It is set in law. You can have more or less agreed to. but everyone has a contract.

    As for you Mr Davis, haven’t seen your contract yet. And if the link is bad, well, too bad. We call union contracts in Maryland Negotiated Agreements. They set down in detail our duties and what the job is. They are very long documents. Documents that for you, aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. You don’t honor a damn thing.

  20. Mr. Smith,
    Basically, no. Your understanding of employment law / contract law is incorrect. As mentioned above, the bulk of employment relationships in the US are “at will”.

  21. Miller Smith says:

    No way in hades are you guys this dumb about contracts.

    Say I hang out at the 7-11 as a day laboror hoping to get a contractor to hire me for a days work. A contractor pulls up and yells to me to ask if I want to work. I ask how much. He says he’s offering $75 for an 8 hour day hauling lumber on a construction site. I accept. I then work the time and haul the lumber. I get paid.

    All of the above are a contract. If I don’t get paid at the end of the day I sue in court for a violation of the contract.

    The fact that you have at will employment in many states does not mean you don’t have a contract. It just means that your contract time is short. YOu still have a contract while you work.

    YOu guys mixed up two different concepts.

  22. Hube wrote:

    Allen? Hearing voices again?

    Spelling teacher and psychiatrist. Why you’re just a Renaissance man, aren’t you, gasbag?

    And many many public school teachers would agree w/you.

    Which, along with a buck, will get you a cup of coffee.

    40% or so of the NEA are Republicans, and more teachers than you’d imagine detest much of what the union stands for.

    And what an impressive number that is. Almost impressive enough to make you forget that 95% of NEA and NEA-affiliate political contributions went to the Democratic party. Which brings up the question of what those 40% of teachers were doing to get their union to represent their political views? Not much on the evidence.

    I guess once you’ve made the decision to draw your livelihood from an institution that has so little accountability to the public it’s just not that tough to forego accountability to your own conscience.

    In view of the debacle typified by the response of the Rockford, IL administration ( http://tinyurl.com/4xy24 ) to escalating reading scores, what’s the point of this discussion? You could round up a battalion of uber-teachers, parachute them into PS 666 and still end up with a rotten education for the urchins.

    Once you coerce, shame, bully and bribe the experienced teachers to teach in the rotten schools what do you do to keep people like “Chief instructional officer Martha Hayes” from pissing in the soup?

    This whole discussion has as much value as arguing about what color to paint a termite-infested house.

  23. Mike in Texas says:

    I have been wanting to comment on this item but for some reason I cannot log in from home.

    NCLB actually creates a perverse incentive for the best teachers not to work at the worst schools. Why would anyone want to transfer to a school that is failing due mostly due to problems beyond their control and risk beging fired two years later, as the law provides for?

  24. Steve, Roberts, are either of you attorneys? I am, and I have to say Miller’s example of the day-laborer’s contract seems perfectly legally accurate to me. Or how am I wrong? An at-will employment relationship is still contractual in nature: both parties have enforceable obligations. A contract is a legally binding promise that a court will enforce: don’t confuse it with a piece of paper spelling out specific terms, etc., which in many cases may evidence or memorialize a contract (and is required by the Statute of Frauds for for many types of contracts in order for them to be enforceable), but is not the contract itself.

    And before you jump the gun, my having said that does not mean I agree with all the rest of Miller’s argument. Ethics may well demand that a professional do more than he or she was specifically contracted to do.

  25. Mike in Texas wrote:

    NCLB actually creates a perverse incentive for the best teachers not to work at the worst schools.

    Except that these were the worst schools before the NCLB and most of the teachers who could, opted out then as well and for the same reasons.

    So how’s the situation changed other then to make explicit and public what was implicit and inobvious?