There are ugly results from a recent analysis by the Los Angeles Times and RAND Corp. that contrasts school employee layoffs with teacher performance in the classrooms of the L.A. Unified School District. From the article:
“Because seniority is largely unrelated to performance, the district has laid off hundreds of its most promising math and English teachers. About 190 ranked in the top fifth in raising scores and more than 400 ranked in the top 40%.”
“Schools in some of the city’s poorest areas were disproportionately hurt by the layoffs. Nearly one in 10 teachers in South Los Angeles schools was laid off, nearly twice the rate in other areas. Sixteen schools lost at least a fourth of their teachers, all but one of them in South or Central Los Angeles.”
“Far fewer teachers would be laid off if the district were to base the cuts on performance rather than seniority. The least experienced teachers also are the lowest-paid, so more must be laid off to meet budgetary targets. An estimated 25% more teachers would have kept their jobs if L.A. Unified had based its cuts on teachers’ records in improving test scores.”
Wow! Firing all of the young teachers, regardless of how effective they are, is simply indefensible. Likewise, holding onto all the older teachers, regardless of how ineffective some of them are, cannot be justified by anyone who gives a whit about the interests of children. But, that’s how the cookie crumbles with the teacher union contract.
Arizona is in the process of developing job evaluations for teachers and principals partially based on how well their students perform on independent tests. Policymakers should take steps to make sure any school district layoffs in 2011 and beyond do not follow L.A.’s horrible example.
With the Nation’s Report Card showing that 44 percent of Arizona fourth-graders are illiterate, Arizona cannot afford to lose successful teachers or protect ineffective ones.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president of research for the Goldwater Institute.
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