StudentsFirst’s Ashley DeMauro in Philadelphia Public Schools Notebook reflects on the School Reform Commission’s recent decision to eliminate seniority-based lay-offs in the cash-starved districts. Instead, necessary teacher lay-offs (Philly’s schools lost 10,000 kids from 2011-2012) will be decided by classroom effectiveness.
The School Reform Commission’s decision to suspend seniority requirements for rehiring laid-off teachers – a power granted years ago by bipartisan legislation – moves in that direction. Allowing the District to call back teachers based on effectiveness instead of seniority will keep our best teachers in the classroom. Considering that teacher quality is the most important in-school factor in student achievement, this is a clear win for kids. Hopefully state-level policymakers will work to allow all districts to staff schools based on student need instead of union rules.
We should also begin paying teachers based on impact in the classroom. Currently, teacher salaries are determined by a series of “steps” based on seniority and academic credentials. This system is based on the assumption that teachers are equal, interchangeable widgets – an assumption that every teacher, parent, student, and administrator knows to be false. By paying teachers more for being effective, we can reward and encourage excellent teaching instead of mere longevity.