Without them, testing madness rules
Jimmy Kilpatrick's post today on EducationNews.org, highlights the ongoing attack on teacher seniority rights in Cleveland and in other mainly urban school districts. This has become a centerpiece in Arne Ducan's Race To The Top and his so-called "turnaround" strategy.
I favor protecting teacher seniority rights for several reasons. One is that they signify the respect due to professionals in most fields. Secondly, they are the product of democratically negotiated collective bargaining agreements between school boards and teacher unions and should be honored as such. The current three or four-years probation period, during which teachers can be fired at the discretion of the principal, provides plenty of time for any school leader worth their salt, to weed out incompetent teachers.
But maybe even more importantly, without the protection of seniority, teachers and principals, confronted with potential bonuses on the one hand, and job loss and school closure on the other, become totally dependent on standardized test scores for their survival as educators. The pressure to produce or show test score increases in a brief time period is putting the entire public education system in a state of academic free fall.
It's not just about protecting teachers' jobs, although that's important, especially in the midst of this recession. It's also about making teaching/learning authentic and moving beyond the narrow confines of standardized testing.