Is 2014 the Year of Teacher Tenure Reform?
NCSF CEO Mashea Ashton writes on the Huffington Post:
Every child deserves great teachers. Unfortunately, making sure we keep the best educators in our nation's classrooms is an ongoing battle, as states continue to hash out teacher retention policies in light of budget constraints. Personnel decisions should always be based on a number of factors, including performance, student achievement and experience level. Yet in about a dozen states, these decisions are still based solely on the number of years a teacher has spent in the classroom.
Retention policies based on seniority are known as LIFO -- "last in, first out." Around the country, they are getting a needed second look. Nine students in California aresuing the state's school system over rules that require layoff decisions to be based solely on seniority. In Newark, New Jersey, School Superintendent Cami Anderson has asked the state's Department of Education to allow teacher evaluation to be considered along with tenure in personnel decisions.
Many school districts nationwide are facing teacher layoffs due to budget shortfalls and cuts. Last summer the Philadelphia school district laid off 676 teachers. Chicago laid off 1,036. Newark may have to lay off 1,000 teachers over the next three years, and Kentucky may have to let go 1,500 - 2,000 educators.
Educators with more years in the classroom will usually be among the best qualified to teach, and tenure should be one of the factors in making these tough decisions. But strict LIFO-only policies risk forcing out high-performing teachers who have a passion for educating students and bring fresh, innovative ideas to the classroom. This punishes children by depriving them of the most talented teaching force they deserve. One study found that only 13 - 16 percent of teachers who are laid off under LIFO policies would actually be terminated if they were rated on their effectiveness in the classroom.