Keep the good, new teachers

States do a lousy job of identifying and retaining effective new teachers, says NCTQ.

States do not require sufficient support and evaluation of new teachers. They do not require (and in some cases actually forbid) teachers’ effectiveness to be considered when granting tenure, and are lagging in the development of the systems necessary for identifying effective teachers. States cling to anachronistic compensation schemes and place a disproportionate emphasis on providing pension benefits to retiring teachers at the expense of providing benefits that would appeal to younger teachers. Further, states allow far too many ineffective teachers to remain in the classroom and gain tenure, including teachers who repeatedly fail to meet the state’s own licensing standards.

Laying off by seniority is bad policy, reports Marguerite Roza at the Center on Reinventing Public Education. To cut the budget by 10 percent, a district would have to lay off 14.3 percent of low-paid junior employees.

On the other hand, if that district followed a seniority-neutral layoff policy — say by a standard of employee effectiveness — only 10 percent of the workforce would lose their jobs.

School districts may be forced to lay off young math and science teachers to keep top-scale teachers in low-demand specialties on the payroll.

About Joanne


  1. My district, with well over 1000 teachers, is going to issue pink slips to every one of us. Then they’ll rescind them by order of seniority when the budget issue clears up.

  2. Physics Teacher says:

    In most other professions wannabees are treated to training as well as a weedout process. Teaching is the only profession that apparently does neither. If you’re a prospective teacher you endure “training” at an ed school where you are told you’ll be great and that you’ll be valued and you get straight As for breathing. Only when you get your first job does the weedout process begin. That’s when you’re told that they wanted a stand-up comic all along and that you should be “engaging” even though no one ever taught you how and it may never have been part of your personality.

    The fact that half (allegedly) of all teachers leave the profession within five years supports the idea that teaching programs need to be far more selective in who they accept to begin with.

    Education is one messed-up field.

  3. I am a third-year teacher, changed careers from another field. And I am an excellent, effective teacher already, if I do say so myself. It’s possible I will lose my job due to CA’s budget mess. If that happens? I don’t think I’ll be back. Really, what’s the point. And CA will be spending money on all that beginning training for someone else all over again in a few years.

    Really, why would I stay in a field where I’m valued so little that I’m tossed out on the street when my student loans haven’t even been paid off?

  4. The K-12 public school system in the U.S. is run by idiots. Bureaucratic idiots.

    Stories like these make me think that the U.S. will never recover from the hole we’ve dug ourselves into. The next generation simply won’t have the skills needed to do so. This country is starting to feel like a championship team that’s past its prime, and on the verge of not even being able to make the playoffs next season because all its star players are going to other teams (to use a sports analogy).

    Our financial system, our infrastruture, our health care system, our political machine, and our K-12 education system are rotting at their base. And feeding off each other’s rigor mortis. I honestly wonder if we’re about to the point of being beyond repair, no matter what the next few Presidents and next few Congresses do (or not do)…

  5. Physics Teacher says:

    The K-12 public school system in the U.S. is run by idiots. Bureaucratic idiots.

    It isn’t the public schools per se, it’s the education schools and the idiots there masquerading as scholars and thinkers. Remember, these are the people who “train” and “select” the bureaucratic idiots.

    Private school teachers, if “trained”, get the same training as public school teachers. Otherwise, they’re still untrained and probably not well selected either.

    Private schools have a better, self-selected, population to teach. I attended a private high school for a year when I was a kid and the teaching wasn’t anything special. But all the students were high achievers and at the very least were shooting for good grades.

    The rot is almost exclusively at the ed schools.

  6. Physics Teacher said, “It isn’t the public schools per se, it’s the education schools and the idiots there masquerading as scholars and thinkers. Remember, these are the people who “train” and “select” the bureaucratic idiots….The rot is almost exclusively at the ed schools.”

    We agree on everything that you’ve said except this point. The rot is in both the public schools and the ed schools. The same folks who run the public schools came from the ed schools. Now, we could agree that some of the rot that is in the public schools could be diminished if ed schools were abolished (which they should be–immediately). But, then the public schools would still be burdened by the teachers’ unions and the involvement of government. Let’s face it–the public schools would still be government schools. I shouldn’t have to say more.

  7. > We agree on everything that you’ve said except this point. The rot is in both the public schools and the ed schools.

    Before you two open a boutique, keep in mind that the ed schools are the suppliers of the certified teachers required by the school districts.

    If the demands of the school districts change, say by the addition of a requirement that prospective teaching employees pass a test verifying subject knowledge, then the ed schools will be forced to follow their lead by making sure their graduates can pass those tests.

    Of course the trick is in getting the school districts to demand some measure of competence of their prospective employees. Change is tough.

  8. I think everyone is forgetting one important party to blame – the school boards or whatever political group that runs the school districts. It is these individuals who set the priorities for the head administrators and can determine a school’s culture. If the board members are lazy, looking for the easy way out when dealing with unions, or confrontational because they are more concerned with keeping taxes down to ensure they are re-elected, they neglect to fulfill their mission – to ensure the communities children are effectively educated.

    That being said, this responsibility continues on to the general public. A community gets the schools it pays for. During the last school board election a retired teacher and administrator stated that he felt it was important to ensure that the district hired and retained quality teachers, even if it meant reworking the teacher pay system. His campaign miserably failed because the community felt it was not worth their taxes to ensure their children’s education.

    Governer Patterson (NY) recently came out with massive budget cuts to help the state get through the recession. Where did he cut the most money? Education. Meanwhile, the state budget for entitlement increased. At least when students drop out or graduate they’ll be able to get good welfare.

  9. Fire bureaucrats before teachers.

  10. tim-10-ber says:

    Hmmm…several good thoughts…but a high percent of the general public was educated in public schools. They have no clue what has happened to the quality of education or why but something definitely has.

    My city has at least five institutions of higher learning that produce “teachers”. Yet only one of those schools has a requirement that a teacher have an academic rather than an education degree (kinda like a duh — this is a no brainer). Yet, the school district which is 73% free and reduced meals does not require time in the classroom and a review of results before they hire a teacher.

    Also…just because a teacher is certified does not mean they are qualified to teach. There is a huge difference in the two. The certificate does not mean a thing…it is what the teacher does in the classroom and how the kids perform that count.

    Oh yeah…one ed school is our state requires a student to have a full year in the classroom, have that time evaluated and then they decide whether to give a teaching certificate (or whatever) to the student. That is not a bad idea either.

    Public schools will not get creative. It is the ed schools that have to enroll higher quality students, put them through a meaningful degree program and do away with ed degrees as a major. Come on….

  11. Robert Wright says:

    Many new teachers are exceptionally good but they’re laid off instead of more veteran teachers who might not be as good.

    How can this be?

    1. Excellence doesn’t matter. If I teach my heart out this year or if I kick back and just hand out worksheets, I not only get paid the same, but I also get the same recognition. Parents are pleased when their children have excellent teachers but parents have very little direct influence on teacher assignment. It’s the luck of the draw.

    2. If a tired, old veteran teacher is laid off because a vivacious new teacher outshines him, what is that tired old teacher going to do? Part of the deal when going into teaching is that in exchange for decent pay and some dignity, there’s going to be some job security. If the rules are going to change, if job security is going to be taken off the table, then the pay and perks are going to have to increase quite a bit.

    3. Some teachers at my school just got tenure, which saddens me, because they’re downright mediocre. They were hired and got tenure because there weren’t a lot of others applying for the job. Also, those who did the hiring were looking for obedience instead of excellence. They’ll be in the system for decades to come. The problem is they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. But, so long as this profession pays so little, you’re not going to have a large pool of applicants to choose from.

    4. Confounding everything is the fact that many great new teachers are no better than lousy new teachers after 4 or 5 years. Time after time I’ve seen new teachers who are frightfully awful who become, in just a couple years, shining stars. It’s really hard to tell who is going to be good. And by the time you know, the person already has tenure.

    Once we have a separation of school and state, things might improve.

    For now, it’s good enough for government work.


  1. […] A study argues that firing least-senior teachers first hurts students and programs. (Via Joanne Jacobs.) […]

  2. […] Joanne Jacobs and Kevin Carey link up Marguerite Roza of the Center on Reinventing Public Education who […]