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    New York’s Bloomberg Tries to Turn the Tide on Tenure

    The mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, recently announced his intention to use student test scores as a determinant in deciding whether to grant teachers tenure. Of course the teachers’ union is vehemently opposed to the proposal.

    Bloomberg is looking to the New York legislature to require all the state’s districts to implement “data-driven systems” by which to evaluate teachers and administrators. This seems like common sense, but sometimes there’s no place for common sense in politics–just money, lobbying, agendas, and jobs.

    Bloomberg would like New York teacher layoffs to be tied to performance, not seniority (as is the current status quo). In other words, the lowest-performing teachers would be cut regardless of how long or short a time they’d been in the system. The way it works now is the teachers newest to the system get the ax first. They could be outstanding movers and shakers while their unmotivated, just-in-it-for-the-paycheck peers get to keep their jobs just because they’ve been there longer.

    I really have a hard time stomaching the idea of first in, first out. It should be: in with the good, out with the bad. I believe k-12 public education needs to adopt more of a private sector approach to hiring and firing. Imagine a corporation that couldn’t fire unproductive employees; those employees knew they had locked-in job security and therefore didn’t have to work hard. Conversely, new employees knew no matter how hard they worked and how well they performed, if someone needed to be cut it would be them. Where would the motivation be? Would that corporation thrive? This is the model used by the k-12 public education system in America. I’ll leave it to you to judge the product.

    The amount of money wasted on lousy teachers with too much job protection is astonishing. New York City pays over $100 million dollars on teachers who are not currently employed. Many of those teachers lost their jobs when their schools were shut down for low academic performance. Teachers who lost their NYC jobs and were not able to find other ones in the system got to keep their salaries even though they weren’t working! Bloomberg wants the new teacher contracts to stipulate a one-year limit on reserve pool teachers.

    The humorous illustration below by Marcellus Hall, letters to the editor, and the original New York Times piece can be found at: www.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/education/26teachers.html

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