Study: Seniority rights widen achievement gap

Is collective bargaining good for students, asks Tom Jacobs on Miller-McCune Online

When New Mexico teachers regained collective bargaining rights after four years without them, SAT scores rose while graduation rates fell, according to a study published in the Yale Law Journal.

Disadvantaged students lost ground, concluded author Benjamin Lindy, a Yale law student and a former middle-school teacher.

“Between 1993 and 1999, New Mexico required collective bargaining with teachers’ unions. The law expired in 1999 and wasn’t renewed till 2003, creating a window in which districts could refuse to bargain with unions.

He found no impact on spending per student.  But student achievement patterns did change.

That’s because teachers lost transfer rights in the no-bargaining interim, Lindy theorizes. Before 1999 and after 2003, senior teachers could  “concentrate themselves in a district’s higher-income, higher-performing schools,” which are easier places to teach.  The least-experienced teachers were concentrated in high-poverty schools.

“This change in transfer rights is especially significant, because it helps explain not only why low-performing students began to improve (when the teachers lost collective bargaining rights), but also why the achievement of high-performing students began to fall,” Lindy writes. “If districts were able to shift high-quality teachers away from concentrated areas of high performance to areas of high-need, one would expect to see the performance of high-achieving students fall.”

So when contracts are negotiated that give teachers with seniority a major say in where they’ll teach, the result is already-advantaged students get yet another advantage: more experienced instructors. This helps them raise their test scores even higher. Meanwhile, the poorer kids get less-experienced teachers, leaving them still further behind and more likely to drop out.

Not all union contracts give senior teachers the right to choose their school, but it’s very common.

Note that Lindy’s analysis suggests that experienced teachers are more effective teachers.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Wait, not that long ago you posted a graph stating that there was absolutely no basis for the idea that low income schools have less experienced teachers.

    Where does this fit in?

  2. This is one slant. Another is that without the right of teachers to transfer schools, children already meeting the level of adequecy do not improve as much as they would otherwise. I hope all children can learn to their upmost potential, and reject the underlying premise that once a student meets an adequate level of learning, we no longer need to worry about them and can dedicate resources elsewhere. As a country, the US does better if both its high performers maximize their potential, and its lower performers raise their education level. One or the other is not a good long term strategy for success.

    I’d also be curious about the long term effects of no-transfers upon the retention of effective teachers.

  3. Yeah, it appears that all this is rife with contradictions. Did the better schools see a drop in performance, being stuck with all those bad teachers who would otherwise be teaching the disadvantaged students?

    Besides, union rights aren’t all that prevents a teacher from being assigned to a bad school. The teacher can quit the district entirely–something that will also catch on if principals have more flexibility to hire and fire.

  4. Didn’t you just post a link to an author who said that experienced – meaning older – teachers should be fired?

    And now this.

  5. Dare we examine the reason why teachers prefer some schools over others?
    Might it have something to do with the quality of students (behavior, effort) and parents (involved, supportive)?

  6. Dare we examine the reasons why teachers prefer some schools over others?

    Might it have something to do with the quality of the teachers (behavior, effort) and the schools that have little choice but to except detritus that’s the inevitable result of tenure and union protection?

  7. “the schools that have little choice but to except detritus that’s the inevitable result of tenure and union protection”

    If the parents and community would properly prepare their children for school, and value education in the first place, teachers would want to teach there.

    I get it, teachers are the easy target. But if you paradropped the best teachers in the world into the average inner city school, the kids would still fail.

  8. Teachers are the easy target because teachers are the people who are hired to do the job. You can understand that when the job isn’t getting done the people who are happily cashing paychecks for doing the job are going to be high on the “blame” list.

    Oh, and let me introduce you to the concept of irony. You’ll find the source of that irony in the upper-right hand corner of the web page you’re looking at.

    It’s Joanne’s book about a school that seemed to do pretty damned well with the same kids you seem to think have no higher purpose in life then providing an excuse for why teachers shouldn’t be held accountable for the quality of the work they do.

  9. “You can understand that when the job isn’t getting done the people who are happily cashing paychecks for doing the job are going to be high on the “blame” list.”

    Student #1: A 17 year old female who is in her fourth year of high school. She is officially called a senior, even though she only has 15 units, which means she has only passed three classes. She will be back next year, because she will not graduate, and will not be 18 until November.

    Student #2: A 16 year old male. This young man was given the option of transfering to a community day school (highly restricted environment, very small classes, daily searches…) or being put up for expulsion. He chose the community day school. He re-enrolled in our school this year. At the end of the first semester he was up for expulsion. He had over 15 days of suspension, and dozens of days of class suspension and on campus suspension. He had a bad attendence and tardy record. He failed all seven classes. (We are on an extended school day) His mom refused to re-enroll him in the community day school because “He doesn’t like it there.” His expulsion was kicked back. I was told it was a paperwork problem. He returned to my class, and has a 15% average. His is disruptive and disrespectful on those days he choses to attend. He is a frequent guest at the on campus suspension room. It is the last week of the 3rd quarter and he is failing all seven classes again.

    I am being judged by the performance this year of both of these students. They are far from unique.

  10. Here is a third student:

    15 year old male. Currently failing everything except P.E. His attendence record is awful..lots of unexcused abscences, truancies and tardies. Just served his 15th day of suspension. The last five were for talking about bringing a gun to school in class, and showing kids pictures on his phone of him holding a couple of guns.

    He’s due back tomorrow.

  11. Let me introduce you to reality outside the hothouse of the public education system – I don’t care.

    If you can’t get the job done then maybe someone else can.

    If no one can do the job then maybe it’s time to rethink the basic concept. But the good, old days offering excuses rather then results are, it’s becoming clear, are coming to an end.

    Long past time in my opinion but late is better then never.

  12. Michael E. Lopez says:

    (digression)

    …and showing kids pictures on his phone of him holding a couple of guns.

    What the….?

    Suspended?

    For a picture?
    (/digression)

  13. Cranberry says:

    The last five were for talking about bringing a gun to school in class, and showing kids pictures on his phone of him holding a couple of guns.

    We don’t know the context. If the student is a boy scout, who just completed a presentation on gun safety, and who would like to repeat his presentation at school, that’s one context.

    If, however, he’s a gang member, who threatened to bring a gun to class, and showed the pictures to other kids to underline his statement, then I’d say it’s a threat.

  14. No..suspended for saying he was going to bring a gun.

  15. “If you can’t get the job done then maybe someone else can. ”

    So. It is your position that teachers bear all of the responsibility, and that students, parents, and administrators bear none apparently. Which is precisely the true problem.

  16. Michael E. Lopez says:

    “No..suspended for saying he was going to bring a gun.”

    Thank you for clearing this up. Conjunctions can be tricky things sometimes.

    “He was executed for murder and petty theft.” <— probably true in a technical sense, given the way sentencing usually works, but a little misleading.

  17. So. It is your position that teachers bear all of the responsibility, and that students, parents, and administrators bear none apparently. Which is precisely the true problem.

    Can’t find a worthwhile response to what I wrote so you thought you’d rewrite it more to your liking?

    What I wrote was that if you can’t do the job you’re being paid to do then you ought to be fired so that someone who is capable of doing the job can take a crack at it. Right now it’s heresy to assert that some teachers are better then others but it’s a heresy that shows every sign of losing its power.

    See how that works? You get the paycheck so you do the job. Got lots of excuses for why you couldn’t do the job? Great. Write a book. But get out of the way because someone else might be competent enough to accomplish the task can have a go.

  18. So..all the kids who get A’s in my class because they pay attention and do their work don’t count? Or am I supposed to have a 100% success rate?

  19. Parents have the responsibility to prepare their children for school and to monitor their progress.

    Children have the responsibility to attend class, pay attention, behave and do their work.

    Teachers have the responsibility to educate our children.

    How come everyone is only talking about the last group’s performance?

  20. Allen, I don’t mind your plan. But what happens when you fire all the teachers who can’t make certain schools work and then few people apply to fill the vacancies? I don’t see hundreds of people clamoring for people like gahrie to get out of their way. Perhaps that’s where you rethink the concept. Better start thinking, because I don’t think part 1 of your plan will improve the education system.