Seniority vs. ability

It’s difficult to argue with the points below if the goal is better education for children.

My point, as I made clear in the column, is that it’s a shame that when we do lay off teachers, ability has nothing to do with it. The only consideration is seniority. Every school has teachers who stand above the rest. Some of them veterans, some of them not.

Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Ray Cortines told me Tuesday that in the best scenario, a school has a good mix of senior, middle-experience and newer teachers, all of them feeding off of and learning from each other.

But the last-hired, first-fired system is no way to attract bright minds to the profession. Why would you want a job where you knew that the minute hard times came along, you’d be automatically bumped while less competent teachers would keep their jobs? And judging by my e-mail, a lot of teachers agree. In fact, some of them sound ready to rise up against their union bosses.

It’s true there is no easy way to evaluate teachers. But that’s because of the sorry politics of the matter, in which teacher unions are at war with school districts, politicians are paid too well to challenge the teacher lobby or fix an absurdly byzantine school funding system, and the children pay the price for the inability of the adults to work it out.

Principals, teachers and administrators need to grow up and work together to bounce the bad apples, polish the good ones and create bonus incentives for the best, and I’m tired of hearing everyone whine about how it can’t be done or won’t be done, or that no model exists.

From Los Angeles Times’ columunist Steve Lopez.


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