Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Updated 7am, Pacific time

Over at Eduwonk there was an interesting debate over LIFO based on the Rotherham analysis of the Obey amendment. A key step in the ed deform movement is to go after salary structure based on years of service and LIFO. Someone asked for a defense of LIFO. (See the piece I wrote with John Tarleton for the Indypendent.) While many of us have some issues with a strict LIFO policy, even if we think about it 'till our brains smoke, given the way so many principals operate, I haven't seen a plan that makes more sense in the long run.

Sort of like when people get frustrated with how inefficient and messy democratic systems can be (certainly NOT the UFT/AFT which is both undemocratic and inefficient) the response is often "show me a better alternative."

(This paragraph updated)
Miss Eyre over at NYC Educator touches on the issue in: Why Should It Be Easy to Fire Someone? I like to point out when a relatively young teacher who entered the system under BloomKlein writes a piece like this. Though Miss Eyre was a Teaching Fellow I believe and not Teach for America, one of the reasons TFA wants to get their people out of the classroom ASAP is to keep them from turning into Miss Eyre.

Here John Thompson takes a crack on the LIFO and tenure aspect of the argument in a comment on the Rotherham post:

Here’s my #1 argument for reforming LIFO, but still protecting seniority. Tenure in universities protects free speech. Without tenure, public school teachers immediately lose the bulk of their power in arguing against policies that impose educational malpractice. I was just watching the video of Brad Jupp at the Ed Sector, and even he who I respect so highly, said that we must accept a world where reform leaders want to just staff schools with “their type of teachers” and train them in their way. Too many in the reform camp just want an educational monoculture. Not all, but many in the reform camp want to drive Baby Boomers out of the profession. Economics is only part of it. Mostly they don’t want the voices of experience distracting from their vision. But economics is a factor, too, and its intertwined with their vision thing. In schools we constantly hear complaints that veteran teachers don’t embrace Smartboards or whatever. Principals of turnaround schools often get rid of older teachers, not because of their lack of effectiveness, but because they aren’t unreservedly on board with the new paradigm. So, you can get rid of dissent and high salaries at the same time.

Too many reformers see that as a win win for them. But often veteran teachers are cautious because they – unlike the young reformers – have seen the same reforms tried and failed over and over under different names.

If I could persuade you on one point, it would be this. The single best way to improve schools would be to think ahead, plan, and stop making the same old errors. It is much better to avoid a mistake than to clean up afterwards.

And point #2, teachers want to teach. The best way to recruit and retain teaching talent is to create learning cultures that respect teachers’ voices as well as the full humanity of students. The best way to drive off talent is to perpetuate this standardized testing madness.


  1. A correction--Miss Eyre wrote today's piece.

  2. Norm,

    Good piece. Why do the ed deformers want to create a culture of uniformity or the dictatorship of uniformity? Who backs these ed deformers and what is the larger agenda?

  3. Compex issue - short answer is agenda is to get rid of union - control salaries - get 2 for 1 in essence - business model. Keep reading here as we expand on this idea.

  4. It's not just about money, it's also about power and control: control of the work and the people who do it (it's no incidental detail that the current head of the New Teacher Project is a labor relations lawyer) and control of the organizational design and purpose of the schools.

    As John Thompson mentions, senior teachers have seen all sorts of addle-brained panaceas come and go over the years, and have a healthy skepticism of them. That's dangerous, and potentially contagious within a staff. How much better to have young people just learning the ropes, without legal protections, in an environment that combines management-directed groupthink, monoculture and coercion.

    The answer to this problem is to demonize and purge experienced teachers, in order to accomplish what management has succeeded in doing over the past century virtually everywhere else: break down the work process (thus Lemov's highly touted, pseudo-scientific "taxonomy)" into discrete chunks, "rationalize" (rational, of course, as defined by management; ask yourself how well that has worked out in the rest of the economy) the workplace and use management's definition of what is valid data to control the work process and manage labor to achieve its ends. A real union with an engaged rank and file is a major obstacle to this project. Thus the big wet kisses that Randi Weingarten receives from her corporate suitors every time she sells out the people she claims to represent.

    A few years ago, when a betting scandal by an NBA referee brought to light the league's micromanagement of their work - they are constantly being assessed, measured and compared with each other on a long list of minute criteria, all unilaterally defined and imposed by management - the head of the ref's union said something that applies to the situation teachers now find themselves in: "They control the information, and they use the information to control us."

    One of the many challenges facing teachers -as if the challenges inside the classroom aren't enough - is to reclaim the narrative of what constitutes education, what education's role in society should be, what serves the needs of young people, and how free-thinking, autonomous teachers facilitate all three.

    Those of us in the trenches right now know that the fear-based model taking over the schools is an attack on a humanistic view of education, work, life and on democracy itself.


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