Seniority is a stupid way to lay off teachers, writes Marcus A. Winters in City Journal.
We know that after only a couple of years in the classroom, a teacher’s additional experience has no bearing on the amount her students learn.
For most school districts in the state, basing layoff decisions on seniority is no better or worse than picking names out of a hat. Some good and some bad teachers will be blindly let go in what will be essentially random layoffs.
Targeting the least effective teachers would actually improve learning, despite slightly larger classes, he writes.
New York City has “dramatically improved the quality of the new teachers it hires” by turning to alternative-certification programs such as Teach for America and the New York Teaching Fellows, Winters writes.
Researchers at the Urban Institute recently found that the arrival of this teaching cohort was responsible for narrowing the gap in teacher quality between high- and low-poverty schools in the city.
But the city is hiring fewer new teachers and soon will be laying off the most recently hired, including the high-quality teachers willing to teach in high-poverty schools.
Writing in Teacher Magazine, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, 137 on her school district’s layoff list, agrees that last hired first fired makes no sense, even as she worries that districts will be tempted to lay off higher-paid, experienced teachers, regardless of competence, if seniority protections are eliminated entirely. Weighing the trade-offs, she concludes that teachers must be willing to see job performance factored into layoff decisions.
Smart, capable people won’t enter a “quality-blind” profession that rewards teachers “based on their hire date, not on their achievements, ability or effort,” Wolpert-Gawron writes.
Update: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read over the last 25 years that teacher effectiveness (measured by reading and math scores) usually levels off after two or three years in the classroom. For those wanting research citations, I found this NBER study and a blog post citing several more studies. If anyone has research to the contrary, let me know.