Last hired = first fired

I've been a bit of a terrible blogger these past few weeks. But I have an excuse----for the past two weeks I've been immersed in writing, studying place conscious education, and thinking about how I can improve the writing instruction in my classroom and make it more relevant to students with an amazing group of teachers in this year's Nebraska Writing Project Rural Institute. This is my last course for my Master's Degree in English with a concentration in teaching--then it's on to my thesis (scary!).

As I work with a group of quality teachers, I can't help but thinking about RIFing (reduction in force) and teacher tenure. Earlier this week I woke up to NPR's Morning Edition and this article: In Teaching, Pink Slips Are A Way Of Life. The article featured one young teacher from the Los Angeles Unified School District who received a RIF notice this year. Due to budget cuts, the district (like many others in our country) is cutting staff. And like many districts, the LAUSD operates on a last hired, first out type of policy when it comes to staff cut-backs. So----despite being qualified, successful, and having made a difference in the lives of students (the reporter interviewed one of the young woman's students who seemed to be deeply impacted by this teacher) this woman will be let go simply because she was hired last in that particular department. Though it was 5:30 AM when I heard this article---and though I wanted nothing more than an extra hour of sleep and for someone to bring me a cup of coffee---so many thoughts crossed my mind:
  • That could be me. I am the last hired in my current district--and because I'm so young, I will probably keep that status for quite some time.
  • Will this woman stay in the teaching field? Or, like many others, will she grow weary of receiving lay-off notices year after year and pursue a more stable job, leaving teaching behind?
  • How many young, excellent, and driven teachers are we losing in education due to this "last in, first out" policy?
  • Is this "last in, first out" mantra what's best for students? Are we losing more quality teachers and sparing those who are less than quality simply because they have taught longer?
The reporter mentioned that many teachers feel "that ending seniority rights is not the answer." Part of me wants to agree--part of me wants that protection gained from years of experience----but another part of me (a bigger part of me) wants to keep the best teachers in the classroom and let the ineffective ones go in order to provide what's best for kids. But...this raises another question: How do we determine teacher effectiveness? We can't use test scores---we've already started to create a generation of teach-to-the-test robot teachers with no room for creativity and flexibility. This is NOT in the best interest of students. I don't even think we can leave it up to administrators to determine teacher effectiveness---they're people. And people are biased---the best teacher could still be let go due to a petty, personal grudge. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for this teacher-tenure/RIFing issue. But I do know that there are significant flaws in the "last in, first out" policy. So, what are your thoughts? Any suggestions on how to change the world one education policy at a time?

1 comment:

celeste said...

Great thoughts here, D! Jacob got RIFed from his school in minesota this year too! I too wish there was a better solution for all of this. Jake is doing a lot of trusting the Lord.