Teacher layoffs, performance, and pay

Here’s my letter that appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune today, May 2, 2009.  The original story was about the excellent young teachers that were being laid off on the basis of seniority, which they lacked.  Even “teachers of the year” were being laid off.

Regarding “Schools struggle with method to reduce teaching staffs” (Our Region, April 27):

The policy of laying off our newest teachers first cripples our educational system. Good teachers are being shown the door, and bad teachers are being retained.

It is no mystery to me why teachers’ pay is low. If teachers are unwilling to be judged on performance, why should they be paid as though everyone is a high performer? Arguments against merit pay, such as cronyism, evaluating intangibles, student body differences and supervisory incompetence, are issues that industry handles successfully (despite some recent spectacular failures).

Schools need to reward performance, weed out the incompetent and the burned out, and identify those who would benefit from support and training. Teachers need not, in fact should not, be judged just on student test results. Nor should time in service be ignored. But there are other measures, including student and parent feedback, student success in later grades and direct observation. It is our children who need excellent educations, and this should be our primary concern, rather than the jobs of low-performing teachers, which the system protects.

Until performance evaluations are given greater weight in salary and retention decisions, our schools will not retain the best teachers, or provide the best education for our students.

JOHN FISTERE
El Cajon

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