Update: The Politics Of Ending LIFO
"Ending LIFO is a critical first step to getting to what’s really necessary: that every principal has the full power to hire and fire every adult (not just teachers) in the school and he/she sees fit, just as managers in 99% of all businesses/organizations in America do (of course with protections for age, race, gender, etc. discrimination), including KIPP and most other successful schools I’ve seen."
I'd argue that tenure reform is a much broader and more appealing thing to do than the narrow focus on ending LIFO. Then again, the Nichols case isn't actually about seniority based layoffs but rather tenure -- I was hijacking the story to talk about the sympathetic senior stories that ending LIFO would certainly generate, complete with pictures of dignified veteran teachers like Nichols.
Though he seems to be in full Romney mode (describing how he can fire people), at least Tilson seems to agree with me about the politics that are involved. That's all I am really getting at, but it's not a small matter and Tilson doesn't name any real solutions to the political problem. Read the full Tilson response below.
You’re missing the big picture here. Ending LIFO is a critical first step to getting to what’s really necessary: that every principal has the full power to hire and fire every adult (not just teachers) in the school and he/she sees fit, just as managers in 99% of all businesses/organizations in America do (of course with protections for age, race, gender, etc. discrimination), including KIPP and most other successful schools I’ve seen.
Violet Nichols’s case highlights the Alice in Wonderland/Mad Hatter’s Tea party nature of the current system, in which all teachers (after 98% get tenure after 2-3 years) have a guaranteed job for life unless they convicted (not just indicted) for a major felony. In Nichols’s case, you seem to buy into the unwritten assumption that in order to let her go, there has to be an airtight, extremely well documented case against her – in other words, the burden of proof is on the principal/district to PROVE beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s grossly incompetent.
This is ridiculous. It’s a privilege, not a right, to work in a school and teach children. If you want to guarantee mediocrity (or worse) across any organization, then set up a system in which everybody keeps their jobs, year in and year out, despite being mediocre (or worse). The key, of course, is to make sure that at the same time you give principals greater power to hire and fire, you also have to hold THEM accountable. I’m fully aware of how terrible some principals are and how some might abuse this new power, but it’s hard to see how a tyrannical principal who unfairly drives out great teachers, plays favorites, hires buddies and family members, etc. could ever have a successful school – so if you have a good system of accountability for the principals, then bad principals can be identified and removed, just like teachers.
You also seem to be buying into the unwritten assumption that schools exist primarily to create good middle-class jobs for adults when you write “No one wants to see middle-aged teachers moving in with their 20-something children, or going on welfare.” If your point is that we have to be cognizant that these issues are important from a public opinion and political standpoint, then I agree with you, but I’d hope we can agree that we should be hiring, evaluating, promoting, and, if necessary, firing teachers based on their performance, not how tough their life might be if they lose their job.
The people who work for me understand that their continued employment depends on me being happy with them. If they fail to add value, have a bad attitude, aren’t team players, or just irritate me, then I can let them go AT ANY TIME AT MY DISCRETION. This may sound like a harsh system and I acknowledge that some employees are treated very poorly by tyrannical bosses, but that’s the way it is in the U.S. job market. If you are squeamish about it, consider the alternative: the sclerotic labor markets in Europe…