Wow -- that's a pretty sweeping statement to just declare that old teachers are more effective than new ones. I can name a few teachers from my high school that disproved that one.
The teachers union is full of shit. If old teachers are more effective than new, then evaluations will show that, and they'll be spared anyway.

Their motive isn't about keeping competent teachers- It's about saving their asses as they grind out those last few years until retirement.
The research on teacher experience shows that teachers ramp up fairly quickly, and that after 3-5 years (studies results vary here) there is not necessarily any benefit to an additional year of experience. In other words, on average, a 2nd year teachers is significantly more effective than a 1st year teacher, but a 6th year teacher isn't necessary more effective than a 5th year teacher.

So, on average, there is some truth to what Knapp says but there are always going to be exceptions to the average. In other words, effective 2nd year teachers will be at just as much risk of being laid off as less effective 2nd year teachers. And, there are surely ineffective teachers who are "safe" from a seniority standpoint. Also, a teacher with 5 years of experience (who has, statistically, "maxed out" in terms of gains from additional years of experience) is still going to be at risk, because that's, relatively speaking, a low level of seniority.

Firing underperformers is a difficult thing to do, no matter what type of organization you're talking about (private sector vs. public sector, small business vs. large). Nobody likes to do it. But, in the private sector, companies often use "layoffs" as a way to accomplish this. Company is not doing well, needs to cut staff, so the first people to go are those who are mediocre performers (not necessarily bad enough to get fired in good times, but the first on the chopping block in bad).

It seems to me like, as long as there is a reasonable and fair way to measure teacher performance (no small challenge, of course), using this same approach in schools makes sense. I don't know about it "closing the achievement gap", but, almost by definition, it should improve overall school performance.
Exactly. When I was in school, the best teachers were the ones who had been around for only a few years, enough to figure out the game but not long enough for the fire to go out. Old teachers were sometimes good, sometimes bad, but much more likely to be bad ones. The only bad ones among the youngest teachers are the ones who are in the wrong profession but haven't figured it out yet -- a fair proportion. Evaluations can sort all that out pretty easily.
The whole point of a school System is that it is a system. There shouldn't be any significantly "better" teachers other than what the system dictates (as #3 admirably argues).

Well, if older teachers perform better than new ones, and the kids just coming out of college aren't setting the world on fire, this change in policy isn't a threat to seniority, is it? It'll still be LIFO because the new teachers aren't as good. Right?

So why the opposition, if the outcome will be the same?
@5: Have you ever actually gone to school? I have, and let me tell you, there is a huge range of teacher quality. Some are passionate about their subject but aren't great at communicating it. Some resent their students and make that clear. Some are personable and charismatic and create enthusiasm in their students. Unless/until we replace human teachers with robots, there will be the same variation in psychology, motivation, and performance as there is in the whole rest of human experience.
Word to @6. If quality = seniority, then there is no reason for the teachers' union to object to replacing the seniority rule with a quality rule.

Where are all the union supports from neighboring threads? Might they be less interested in vocally supporting a union policy that is so blatently about protecting the incompetent?
Everyone seems to be missing a key element in this proposal. What prevents school administrators from simply getting rid of senior (and thus higher on the salary schedule) teachers to employ cheaper newer less experienced teachers? New teachers who will now understand that pleasing the principal is more important than anything else they do. (Principals who are all clearly brilliant experts on teaching?) Wait till they find a way to outsource the jobs of those younger teachers.
Speaking as a proud public sector union member, screw the teachers union on this one. All public employees should be retained, or not, based on their abilities and job skills, not their ability to sit in one job for decades. Public sector unions ought to be out in front in designing the best way to measure those skills and retaining and rewarding the best employees. The most experienced employees, if they're working even modestly hard, ought to be the best anyway. By stubbornly defending seniority at all costs, the unions are merely setting themselves up for anti-union attacks that risk all the good things unions have accomplished over many years.
Surely anyone who's ever had a boss can appreciate that performance evaluations aren't necessarily a perfect or unbiased measure of effectiveness. (@1, you mentioned your high school teachers... How much confidence did you have in the sage teaching expertise of their boss, your high school principal?) Sometimes a bad evaluation just means someone is making waves, trying to improve things, and the boss doesn't like it. In schools in particular, as folks surely know, there's a political push right now to measure student learning (and therefore teacher effectiveness) by test scores. Were your best teachers those who taught to the test? Mine definitely weren't. There are plenty of reasons why a seniority system for layoffs is widely considered the most decent and objective way to go. Employers just don't like it because new hires are cheaper than senior employees.

But a bill like this also misses the forest for the trees. Lay off teachers? What the hell kind of bad idea is that? Even larger class sizes will be bad for kids, no matter which teachers are first to go. Instead of divisive measures like this, how about we put our energy into insisting that quality schools be a higher budget priority than endless war?
#9 Why shouldn't teachers try to please their bosses. I'm expected to please my boss. That's part of the job. If the principal sucks, then there needs to be a way to replace the principal.

Any war, endless or not, has no bearing on the Washington state budget.

My best teachers didn't teach to the test, that's true, but since they were effective teachers, they didn't need to. We learned the material without rote memorization. Excellent teachers won't be harmed by this policy.
@9 &11 - No performance evaluation is ever going to be completely objective/foolproof. But, that's the case pretty much anywhere, in any job (except maybe salespeople...).

Again, lots of organizations (not just schools) struggle with having effective performance evaluations. But it is possible to do it well and fairly -- multiple observations, by more than one person (not just the Principal), if test scores are used making sure they're only part of the story and that the "right" metrics are used (e.g., not proficiency), clearly defined performance criteria & rubrics, designed with input from the teachers (and the union), etc. Whether districts in Washington are actually doing this effectively, I can't really speak to. But, I'm of the mind that just because something's complex or difficult, doesn't mean we shouldn't try it if it's the right thing to do.
Oh, and the "teaching to the test" thing. There was an interesting study by the Gates Foundation that found that the more students agreed with the statement "We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test", the smaller the gains they made on those tests.

So, teaching to the test may actually not produce the best results on the test (granted, this was one study).
We lost a wonderful 2nd year teacher at our son's elementary school last year due to RIFs - they gave us a teacher who had been with the district 20+ years. My son's gym classes consisted of watching "Scooby Doo" cartoons and the occasional Veggie Tales.

The teacher disappeared around February. A month later, they sent a letter home saying the teacher was taking an extended leave that conveniently lasted until he hit his retirement date at the end of the school year.

We got our 2nd year teacher back this year, thank god.
This is about one thing and one thing only: money

More experienced teachers are more expensive than new ones. And untrained ones (Teach for America) are cheaper still.

I do think it should be easier to get rid of bad teachers, but old =/= bad and new =/= good. Districts want cheaper labor and are dressing it up in "closing the achievement gap" bullshit.
@11: So basically, since no performance evaluation is perfect, we might as well totally decouple performance from retention?

I'd have no problem with a merit formula that incorporated seniority, since there is value in cultural continuity, interpersonal connections, and so on. Call it 25% of the formula, and I'd be happy. As someone who has to work my butt off, maintain good relations with my boss, and make sure I justify the salary premium I command over new workers, I'm just having a hard time sympathizing. Most of us earn our jobs every day we go to work. Why should teachers be different?
@17: Your argument makes no sense. You're saying that a performance-based retention policy would favor cheaper, untrained teachers?
I graduated from Ballard High School in 2006, and I have to say that if any of the teachers I had should have been fired, it definitely would have been some of the ones who had been around a long time. Granted, it was a rich, white school and all that, but the problems didn't come from incompetence, but complacency. Certainly there were a couple of amazing teachers who had been teaching for decades, but if I had the power to fire teachers at that school, i'd get pretty far down the list before I got to anyone young or new.

Oddly enough, I had the opposite experience at Evergreen, with the single professor that hadn't been teaching there in 1990 being the worst of the bunch.
I'm struck by the absence of notation in the headline that all the school constituency groups oppose this bill: School Boards, School Superintendents, School Principals and the Union. While that fact is buried in the article, it should be the headline. The union supported revamped evaluation procedures to ensure that all classrooms have quality educators. As a former teacher, I can tell you that I was much more skilled with experience and a graduate degree earned later in my career than I was in my first few years of teaching.
I cringe when I think of my first few years of teaching; luckily, my students learned in spite of my missteps. It has taken me about 5 years to get to the point where I would consider myself a decent teacher. I work with several teachers who have been teaching for 20-30 years, and I value their knowledge and experience greatly. When I'm struggling with a kid, they can offer me a variety of strategies to try. When I know something is not right with a lesson, they can usually pinpoint where things went south and how I can correct it. There may be some older teachers out there who are no good, but I don't work with any of them. In fact, if any of the teachers I work with would be considered poor teachers, it would be the one with 2 years of experience who is more interested in planning her wedding than teaching, and the one with 6 years, who walks in 5 minutes before the kids and walks out 5 minutes after them, with nothing in her hands to take home. Meanwhile, the rest of us (those old teachers included) go home at 6:00 with stacks of papers to grade or teacher manuals to go through.
Evaluations by a principal are dubious (at best) proof of a teacher's actual ability, competence, performance, dedication.

Teaching assingments and evaluations are often made at the caprice of administrators who are not above playing favorites, rewarding the butt-kissers, and punishing the independent thinkers.

Moreover, some classes (e.g. advanced placement, honors, the "gifted") are more "teachable" and will show comparable results. Others (e.g., "basic" ) with disruptive, poorly attending, chronically low-performing students present much more of a challenge even to the most gifted, charismatic teachers.

Seniority offers some protection against injustice to people who have invested their lives and their hearts in their profession and the students they teach. This is not to say that the incompetent, the lazy, the unconcerned should be allowed to teach our children. However, new is not ipso facto better.

Finally, as in the private sector, salary increases are usually given for years of experience. New employees receive lower salaries than seniors.

The drive to get rid of seniority, for all its phony concern for the children, is actually all about money.

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