Putting Teacher Effectiveness First
Just to give you a sense of where this conversation on teacher effectiveness is in California - It isn’t. The ACLU filed their lawsuit against the layoffs in LAUSD based on balancing years of service in high need, high poverty schools – not effectiveness. It looks as though our Senate leadership is going to focus on a policy fix that encourages more senior teachers, regardless of how effective they are to go into our high poverty, high need schools as a way to fix the disproportionate impact of layoffs. It is the typical backward thinking that has screwed our high need schools for years.
Let’s see? What do our high need schools have in abundance – teachers with less tenure who may be energetic and sometimes quite effective and who may be more like the communities in which they work. What else do they have - lots of older teachers who may be burned out and disconnected and who are less likely to reflect the communities in which they work. In a world where effectiveness was important we would keep the best teachers regardless of how long they had worked in a school system. In a world where effectiveness wasn’t important, we would not only get rid of great teachers through insane personnel policies, we would file lawsuits to make sure that we brought more older teachers into our schools regardless of their effectiveness and call it social justice. What a crock.
We have plenty of data on the impact of teachers on student performance. Districts around the country are using this data to identify highly effective teachers. This is standard practice in other professions. They identify their high performers and strive to keep them. In education, we do the opposite. And we do it at a point when we need our great teachers, particularly our less senior ones, more than ever, because they are our future.
Has anyone noticed that the baby boomers are going to retire soon. They’ll head off into the sunset with their job protections and their long-time pension benefits and they are going to leave our systems and our kids not only short of dollars but short of the great teachers who are needed to replace them. Why would you enter into a system or a profession where the only thing that matters is how long you have sat in a seat or stood up in front of a class? Why would we want to send our children into a system where the only thing that mattered about a teacher was how long they had collected their paycheck – not their impact on my child’s learning. And we ask ourselves why we have persistently low performing schools or why we fail to close the achievement gap.
The answer is patently obvious. We have structured an education system that functions like the economy in Greece. The focus of our policymakers and decision-makers is on the feeding the needs of the adults and not on nurturing the future of our nation. Would it be this case in our state if so many of these students were not brown, black, poor or had parents who didn’t speak English? I highly doubt it.
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