Schools should keep best teachers, not tenured ones
Updated: May 9, 2011 10:08AM
In keeping with school board code, dozens of teachers in the suburbs received pink slips last month effectively putting their careers on hold.
As a taxpayer in these financially difficult times, I understand why the pink slips are necessary. But as a parent with four children in our local public schools, I object to Illinois laws that determine how these layoff decisions are made.
If we are forced to make do with larger class sizes, as so many school districts are asking, shouldn't those classrooms be led by the most effective teachers?
In Illinois, seniority is the sole factor in layoffs. In the classroom, experience is important, but research shows -- and the best teachers will tell you -- that there is more to teaching than just the years spent in a classroom. In fact, in a recent survey, three-quarters of teachers agreed that factors other than seniority and tenure should be considered in layoff decisions.
And when instructional needs are solidified and we find that our schools can recall or hire new teachers? Districts will once again be hamstrung by seniority and tenure. For instance, a school looking to hire back its "pink-slipped" second grade teacher -- who is already invested in the school and its students -- could instead be forced to hire a tenured fifth-grade teacher from another school with very little experience teaching early readers.
Right now in Springfield, legislation has moved to the House (after passing the Senate 59-0!) that would allow school districts the flexibility to look at other factors in addition to seniority and tenure when making these decisions.
Leveraging the teacher and principal evaluation reforms passed last year, the proposals include requirements that teacher performance be part of the equation when staffing decisions are made.
Of course, we have a long way to go in ensuring that the foundation for these decisions -- professional evaluations -- are fair and are used primarily as a tool to improve instructional practice, but putting teacher performance on the list of considerations for employment puts the interests of our children where they should be -- first.
Contact your legislators and tell them if you agree that everyone -- especially our students -- benefits when the best teachers keep their jobs.
Advance Illinois is one of the collaborators in the state legislation
Elizabeth Dierksheide is project manager at Advance Illinois, an independent organization that works to improve public education in the state.
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