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Keeping Our Best Teachers- An Alternative to Seniority-Based Layoffs

Keeping Our Best Teachers- An Alternative to Seniority-Based Layoffs

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Published by Chris Stewart
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Published by: Chris Stewart on Feb 14, 2012
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01/09/2014

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817 Broadway5th floor, Suite 510New York, NY 10003646.722.8175
www.educators4excellence.org
KEEPING OUR BEST TEACHERS:AN ALTERNATIVE TO SENIORITY-BASED LAYOFFS
Table of Contents:PrefaceIntroductionImminent LayoffsThe Current SystemOur RecommendationsAbsenteeismCurrent Rating SystemConclusionWhat is E4E?The TeachersPreface
We joined Educators 4 Excellence because we believe teachers have an essential role to play ineducation policy, and we wanted to make our voices heard. Over the last several months, asmembers of E4E’s Layoff Policy Team, we have examined policies, state laws, relevant research,and the New York City teacher bargaining contract, searching for practical solutions to thelooming problem of teacher layoffs. After long days of teaching, we gathered to discuss policiesthat directly affect us, and, more importantly, threaten our students, our schools, and our communities.We are a diverse group: veterans drawing on memories of many Septembers, novices who areeager to learn, and mid-career teachers who want to build on their expertise. We live and teachall over New York City’s five boroughs. The walls of our classrooms boast finger paintings,multiplication problems, and Advanced Placement statistics. Across our differences, what unitesus is a passion for our students: above all else, we are dedicated to student achievement, and wewill do whatever it takes to help our students reach their goals.This process was transformative for many of us: we are taking an active role in changing theeducation system, beyond our classrooms, and this document was written by teachers, for teachers. For too many years, education policymakers have ignored the voices from theclassroom who know best how policy translates into practice. Now, as state budget cuts meanthat layoffs may be a reality for some of New York City's 80,000 teachers, it is time for our 
 
 
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teacher voices to be heard. Seniority-based layoffs will have a damaging effect on our schoolsand on our students, and we need a better way.
Introduction
As a team of teachers who have researched and debated New York's teacher layoff system for the last four months, we believe the “last in, first out” policy will wreak havoc on our schools andour students. As teachers, the last thing we want is to see any of our colleagues laid off. But our state is in financial crisis, and if layoffs do happen, New York needs a system that protects our students.If teacher layoffs happened tomorrow, teachers would be laid off in order of reverse seniority –the most recently hired would be the first to go. This current system is quality-blind, ignoring thefact that teacher effectiveness is the single most important factor in impacting studentachievement. Given the dramatic variations in teacher quality, when making these toughdecisions, we need to do so in a way that keeps the best teachers in the classroom.Furthermore, schools with large percentages of newly hired teachers, often in the lowest-incomecommunities, would be the most severely impacted. The culture of schools that lose teacherswould be torn apart, as replacements with more seniority were randomly assigned to the building,and the mutually agreed-upon hiring system would fall apart.Our students deserve better.
The Educators 4 Excellence Policy Team recommends the following changes to the “lastin, first out” policy:
Teachers who fit into any of these three categories should be laid off first:
 
Chronic absentees: 
Teachers who have been absent more than eight percent of a givenschool year, without a documented medical reason.
 
Principal evaluations: 
Teachers who have received an unsatisfactory rating in the pastyear.
 
Absent Teacher Reserve Pool
:Teachers who have not been able to find a permanentposition in the past six months.
If further layoffs are necessary, principals should make the decision, providingdocumentation and rationale, based on factors that impact teacher effectiveness
, such asclassroom management, instructional performance, years of experience, license areas,contribution to school community, and student performance data, if available.These categories are clear indicators of teacher performance and student achievement:
Teachers absent more than 10 days significantly reduce student achievement.
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Less than 3 percent of New York teachers receive an unsatisfactory rating.
1 Miller, Raegen, et al. “Do teacher absences impact student achievement? Longitudinal evidence fromone urban school district,”National Bureau of Economic Research, 2007, available athttp://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1190910822841.pdf.
 
 
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Excessed teachers who have not successfully found a permanent position within sixmonths are unlikely to find one thereafter.
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 In the absence of a more comprehensive evaluation system, our framework is a better way toconduct layoffs because it protects great teachers. Layoffs will hurt New York City schoolsregardless of how they are determined, but using seniority as the only criteria, without anyconsideration of teacher effectiveness, will cause much more damage to our schools and tostudent achievement.
Imminent Layoffs
Across the country, state governments are feeling the burden of the recession. With less moneycoming in from tax revenue, states must cut budgets, and schools are directly affected.Nationally, in 2009, almost 60,000 teachers were laid off.
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Many governors have alreadyannounced budget proposals for 2011; most include massive cuts to education to address cash-strapped state coffers.New York is no exception. Our state faces a nearly $11 billion deficit, and Governor Cuomo isplanning a reduction in spending
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for the first time in seventeen years.
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The budget woes at thestate level impact New York City more than anywhere else in the state, and although thegovernor's budget has not yet been finalized, the City will certainly receive significantly less statefunding. This year's city budget gap could be as much as $4.5 billion, according to projectionsfrom the mayor's office.
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 This year, teacher layoffs loom on the horizon again. In 2009 and 2010, the federal stimuluspackage helped mitigate education budget shortfalls, but that money has dried up, and our statebudget will have to be drastically reduced. Teacher layoffs are on the table once again, and thetime is now to put in place a policy that protects the interests of New York’s students.
The Current System
New York state law currently dictates that all teacher layoffs must be made in the order of reverseseniority.
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For example, if a principal needed to lay off five elementary school teachers, she wouldhave no choice about which teachers she would lose: her five least-senior teachers would go.Seniority would protect the rest of her teachers, regardless of whether they were effective in theclassroom. New York City's bargaining contract defers to state law on the subject of layoffs. As a
2 Daly, Timothy, et al., “Mutual Benefits: New York City's Shift to Mutual Consent in Teacher Hiring,” TheNew Teacher Project, 2008, available at http://www.tntp.org/files/MutualBenefits.pdf.3 National Council on Teacher Quality, “Teacher Layoffs: Rethinking Last-Hired, First-Fired Policies,”February 2010, available at http://www.nctq.org/p/docs/nctq_dc_layoffs.pdf.4 Note that this reads a ‘reduction in spending’, not simply a reduction in the growth of spending.5 Quint, Michael. “Cuomo Tells Lawmakers to Prepare for First Budget Cut Since 1995,” January 26,2011, available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-26/cuomo-tells-new-york-lawmakers-to-prepare-for-first-budget-cut-since-1995.html.6 Goldman, Henry. “New York City Budget Deficit Next Year May Widen by $2 Billion, Page Says,”December 6, 2010, available at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-06/new-york-city-budget-gap-may-widen-by-2-billion-next-year-official-says.html.7 New York State Education law Section 2588

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