Sunday, May 8, 2011


Last Update: Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 9:30am
I remember Joel Klein's first words in his attack on seniority: the schools in the poorest neighborhoods can't attract the same level of experienced teachers that schools in wealthier neighborhoods do. As a matter of fact that was a standard of the Ed deform early attacks on teacher seniority rules. Now of course this line has ceased and been replaced by "we need the young blood in the poorest schools."

Before I go on, I must remind you of something Leonie Haimson and Julie Cavanagh say at every presentation: teacher experience and class size are the only two in class factors that have been proven by research to impact on students in a positive way.

There was another article in the NY Times the other day about how some schools will lose piles of newer teachers who will be replaced by senior teachers forced to transfer to fill their vacant positions if LIFO rules are followed. We can expect these articles daily with sad interviews about how much these teachers love teaching and their kids. Expect the NY Post to devote entire editions to these stories.

So let's do some math on the pro LIFO vs. the whiny "we need to keep excellent teachers" argument. I'm going to use the 5-year benchmark based on the idea that 50% of all teachers leave after 5 years. I picked the 5-year number because the layoffs will probably not go that deep and pretty much anyone in this category will have a job (other than license areas like art and music that can be chopped completely).

So assume Bloomberg's extortion attempt works and there is no LIFO and they go after ATRs, the higher salaried, the U-rated and people who wear spotted ties. All the Teach for America people stay because they are, well, TFAs. Now we know that the attrition rates of TFAs are even higher than the normal rate of 50% over 5 years. Much higher. So even if these "excellent teachers" stay while 25 year horrible and ugly teachers go, the reality is that more than half won't stay past three years and over 5 years the number will be more like 70-80% who leave. No one seems to be crying over losing these "superb" teachers whether there are or are not layoffs.

So if we end LIFO we will still lose half of all the teachers spared in WalBloom fantasyland anyway. And many more who stay may well gravitate out of the classroom anyway. What kind of investment even in a business sense it that?

But if we still have LIFO and the layoffs (meaning Bloomberg's game of chicken didn't work) let's look at those over 5 year slugs that are ruining the lives of children and munching at the public teat. They are the 50% who did not leave after 5 years. And they are not among the people who were denied tenure (an increasing number over the last few years). So this group has undergone a double weeding out process. In the worst case scenario, many may have to move to schools where newer teachers were laid off (to be recalled under LIFO in an orderly fashion - and as we know with 1500-2000 teachers leaving every year through retirement or that 50% who leave anyway they are pretty much guaranteed to be recalled at worst within a year or two, negating the argument that they are lost to the system.)

So what's so bad about replacing a 3 year or under - even if a good teacher – with a 5 year or over teacher? In some cases there might be a loss in talent but if we just take the experience factor into account over the long run doing layoffs under LIFO is a win for the schools that lost people. The replacement group will not leave in anywhere the same numbers as the people they replaced. And they bring vastly more experience to the table than the people who were laid off. Plus by staying, they have already proven they are more likely to be career teachers.

Taken as a whole, which group should we invest in when considering building an effective and consistent, well-trained teaching force? We know WalBloom's answer. But why expect rationality from that source? Lucky for us they are not using their concept to staff nuclear reactors.

UFT vows 'Wisconsin' protest over teacher cuts

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