Thursday, April 15, 2010

And the (Teacher) Survey Says...

I can't say that I frequent the FoxNY website; GothamSchools' nightcap today pointed me in that direction. (You really need to read GothamSchools a couple of times a day, by the way. They update all day, and their "Rise and Shine" and "Nightcap" posts in the mornings and evenings consistently serve as concise and user-friendly roundups of what's happening not only in education news, but in the classrooms of many well-known teacher bloggers--sometimes including NYC Educator and myself. But I digress.) They had video of an interview with Dan Weisberg from TNTP (the New Teacher Project), so I checked it out. Among Weisberg's remarks was a comment that a survey of teachers found that a majority of teachers did not believe seniority should be the overriding consideration in choosing teachers to be laid off.

This is a link to the study Weisberg references. I have to admit that I find it credible, if only because the rankings surprised me. (Teacher attendance the #2 concern? Not that it's not a legitimate concern, but apparently Indianapolis teachers have collectively done one too many coverages, if you know what I mean.) And as far as I can tell, this is a representative sampling of teachers--not just youngsters who are likely to be favorable to TNTP, that is.

I'm a youngster myself, as most of you know, and I'm all for revamping the teacher evaluation process. I'm not even opposed to possibly reforming Last In First Out. But the DOE reforming evaluations now, and "reforming" Last In First Out now, just doesn't sit easy with me. I just don't think I can trust the Mayor and the Chancellor to do that kind of reforming in responsible ways. You'll have to forgive me if I'm not ready to drink that particular brand of Kool-Aid.

And experience does matter. I loved this piece by Diana Senechal at GothamSchools too because she makes that case persuasively. I'm not ready to ditch Last In First Out entirely for her reasons; it's going to be way too easy to somehow justify the laying-off of wonderful (and expensive) older teachers.

So where does that leave us? Well, ideally it would leave us with some budget reworking that would stave off layoffs. Failing that, maybe it would leave us with a solution that was multi-tiered, that would include some generous early retirement or furlough packages so the city could look for volunteers first. That might save some jobs. Then perhaps we might look to layoffs based on a variety of factors, including seniority but perhaps not limited to it. Experience should still count for something. I've made the argument on my own blog that many elements should be taken into consideration when evaluating teacher quality. Maybe this creates an opportunity.

But teachers have to step up and propose something. I keep thinking the union is going to do it, but it doesn't look like they will. Is it going to take a group like Educators 4 Excellence to make the rest of us so annoyed that we propose a solution, any solution? Or are we going to sit back and simply complain; meanwhile, we look like a bunch of moaners while our "friends" in Albany push something through? And, if we do something, what's the best way to get the word out about it?

I think we need to be proactive on the evaluation issue; otherwise, we can kiss any consideration of seniority goodbye, and put ourselves at the mercy of either test scores or our administrators' good graces. And we all know how well that's going to work out.
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