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The Sound of Ideas

Last Hired, First Fired

Posted Monday, May 3, 2010

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To balance its budget and re-align itself with a smaller student population, the Cleveland schools have put 800 jobs on the chopping block. They're far from unique. New York City's schools chancellor, for instance, wants to cut more than 8,000 jobs. In both New York and Ohio, choosing who goes boils down to one rule – last hired, first fired. Monday morning at 9, join host Dan Moulthrop for a look at how districts beyond Ohio are meeting these challenges, in some cases, by changing union rules and long held beliefs about teacher contracts.

Tags

Education

Guests

Claudio Sanchez, Education Reporter, NPR
Jennifer Medina, Education Reporter, The New York Times
Frederick Hess, American Enterprise Institute

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Angry Cleveland Resident 9:41 AM 5/3/10

Cleveland companies have had cuts over the last several years and I know several out of work professionals.

It is unfortunate that the Cleveland City Schools will also have to go through cuts.  However, as a Cleveland resident I am VERY angry that seniority is the main factor in determining which teachers will be cut. 

The teacher’s union is TOO strong and is protective of all teachers regardless of their ability to teach children.  Cleveland students are falling behind and the teachers union appears to only be concerned with preserving jobs rather than properly educating students.

Teachers should be evaluated on a number of elements (seniority, test scores, and many other factors) to determine their ability to teach; teachers falling short should be the first to be cut regardless of their seniority!

Rodney Hessinger 9:59 AM 5/3/10

I have often wondered why teacher’s unions hold so fast to the “last hired, first fired” principle.  I know that one fear might be that teacher’s get “blamed” for students’ performance on standardized tests.  But there are ways to judge performance other than student performance on standardized tests (plus we all know how badly the testing culture has hurt learning in public schools).  Why not allow teacher’s to judge the performance of their peers?  Surely teachers, like administrators, want their schools to thrive.  And surely, some teachers are stronger than others.  Yes, such a review process can be political.  But representative committees can be formed to guard against this potential.  If teachers make a ‘concession’ on the seniority principle, than administrators should in return make a concession on who gets to review performance (and even perhaps on how this information is used in hiring and firing decisions).

David G. Currie 10:02 AM 5/3/10

In the interest of full disclosure, the “Education Maven” should have told us where the American Enterprise Institute gets most of its funding. Also whether the AEI, as a non-profit lobby group, pays any property taxes in such places as, say, Washington, DC, where their headquarters are located.

Averil McClelland 10:18 AM 5/3/10

Hi, Dan...Good program this morning.  I’d like to comment on a couple of things. First, I agree with Claudio Sanchez that teachers and those who support them believe that teacher-bashing needs to stop.  The media in particular (although the current political climate is equally or more at fault here) seems to refuse to even consider that teachers may, in fact, be fighting for good education for the children they teach.  So far, and I am paying attention, I haven’t heard any program on these issues that takes up the question of whether teachers might actually be questioning the current national “wisdom” on school reform, which seems to be a) that raising test scores indicates that students have actually acquired knowledge that will still be available to them in three weeks, or three years, and that they can apply that knowledge to anything at all; and b) that competition with public schools will improve, not eradicate them.

I would encourage you to read Linda Darling-Hammond’s latest book, “The Flat World and Education,” in which she describes how schooling “works” in the best performing countries. In these countries, teachers are widely respected, highly educated, and highly paid. They have been and are deeply involved in curriculum design, in experimenting with pedagogical methods for different kinds of learners, and in designing and writing the assessments used by the country. Contrast this with the current attitudes toward teachers in this country (see the comment below, for instance). It took many of these countries a number of years (35 for Finland) to get where they are today—yet Americans, as always, want things “fixed” last week.

As you probably know, Linda Darling-Hammond was the chief education advisor to President Obama during his campaign.  I encourage you to read her book and then think about how differently we might be pursuing educational reform today if she had been appointed as Secretary of Education. And perhaps you could do a program on her ideas.

Hank Haynes 10:30 AM 5/3/10

I am a retired special education teacher of thirty-two years and a long time local union officer.

I see school districts use the excuse that the union contract won’t let them fire poorly performing teachers.  A close look at contracts in northeastern Ohio will show that the contracts are not the problem. 

I believe that many school administrators treat teacher evaluations as a time consuming nuisance.  They tend to avoid even a rudimentary documentation of problematic teacher performance, let alone offer any constructive support for improvement.  Building principals and administrators are poorly trained and supported in using systematic and objective, rubric-based teacher performance evaluation tools.  This often results in sloppy subjective evaluations that the union must oppose. 

I strongly support locally developed systems of peer review and support to improve teacher quality and instruction and encourage those unable to measure up to leave the classroom.  Unfortunately, such programs would require more of a time (and money) commitment that local schools and communities are unwilling to support.

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