Sunday, February 27, 2011

An Open Letter from Newer Teachers of New York State

February 21, 2011

Dear parents, students, colleagues, school administrators, elected officials, and members of the public,

Currently, New York State's seniority rule protects experienced teachers from layoffs, a policy sometimes known as "last in, first out." In recent budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Black have pressured Governor Cuomo to overturn this rule. We, the undersigned teachers who have been teaching in New York State for five years or less, stand in solidarity with our more experienced colleagues and strongly support maintaining the seniority rule.

As newer teachers, we rely on our more senior colleagues for guidance and support.  Senior teachers offer us their advice, their formal mentorship, and their connections with communities.  Without more senior teachers, we would lose our bridge to lessons learned through years of dedicated work in the school system.

In addition, the rates of black and Latino new teacher hires in New York City have steadily declined since 2002, while the vast majority of New York City public school students are black and Latino. Opening up more senior teachers to layoffs would risk further decreasing the already sparse ranks of teachers of color.  These teachers provide guidance for younger teachers of all backgrounds, and play an important role in the lives of our students.

We also believe that Bloomberg and Black's so-called "merit-based" system for retaining teachers will foster competitive, fearful school cultures that are detrimental both to teachers' professional development and to student learning. In addition, Bloomberg and Black seek to measure teacher performance by student test scores, an imperfect measure at best, and one that encourages narrowly test-focused curricula.

Finally, Bloomberg and Black's arguments against the seniority rule are based on the fact that newer teachers work for lower salaries than our more experienced peers; allowing experienced teachers to be laid off would therefore reduce the total number of necessary layoffs.  This argument, however, fails to account for the true cost of professional development and adequate support for newer teachers.  It also ignores the fact that teacher experience is one of the most reliable predictors of student learning.  If student achievement is the priority, then experienced teachers are more than worth their cost.

Ultimately, the debate over who to lay off is a distraction from the root causes of inequity that continue to affect our profession and the lives of our students; budget cuts should not include any teacher layoffs.  Education is an investment in our future, and cuts to education are ultimately short-sighted.  We reject political tactics that raise the specter of massive teacher layoffs in efforts to divide the workforce and pit parents against teachers.  In the interest of our students, we stand with senior teachers in supporting the seniority rule.



Newer Teachers of New York State 

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Anonymous said...

This makes sense to me.

Anonymous said...

We cannot let them weaken tenure. The next thing you know there will be no union or no need for one when the union submits to the LIFO rule and abusive principals lie about evaluations. They are already doing that!

Anonymous said...

I was once called in by a central supervisor and a principal to attend preliminary meetings in an impartial hearing, even though I no longer worked at that school and was not named personally by the parent. The reason? My successor was a newbie - fresh out of school, not even halfway through her requirements for licensure and certification, let alone permanent state licensure. She was a bright, capable, young woman who brought a great deal of enthusiasm and fresh knowledge with her from graduate school. What she didn't have was the experience to deal with the cadre of administrators, lawyers, advocates, and the parent. When asked to give our opinions on whether the case had merit, my colleague's answer was a simple "no." When asked to elaborate, I had to jump in and provide the rationale, which was based on my observations of the child and my experience in the field. There was no substitute.

Get rid of the veteran teachers and watch all the impartials go to hell, and the newbies will go up in flames. My newbie successor was more than grateful that I was there to support her (and to prevent her from saying something naive, and therefore, in a legal proceeding, stupid).

I believe most newbie teachers believe in seniority and tenure, at least the ones who want to make teaching a career. Without those benefits, no one will want to teach, except for a bunch of TFAs and A4Es who will swoop into the classrom, ruffle things up for a year or two, and then get corporate jobs in ed deform, making a mint destroying the livelihoods of their former colleagues and the lives of the children they served.

What protects us, as senior teachers, protects them, as well. Good to know some of them are speaking out.

Anonymous said...

Newbies will be in for a rude awakening just like the teacher the NYTimes just did a story on when they are denied tenure due to a fraction of a percentage off of their VAM number.

Why on earth did Randi agree to this?
This teacher already said she is not going to file an appeal even though her principal wants to keep her because she doesn't want to return to teaching. The principal's hands were tied in this. What normal person who puts in blood, sweat and tears would want to go through this again. Her students did well on the regents but that stupid fraction of a percent defined her as a teacher. VAM seems to be backfiring on the DoE since these are the teachers they claim to want in the classroom.

Anonymous said...

Is Jamaica slated for this?

Looks like Green Dot is coming to schools slated for closing.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know anything about the 4/14 rally at Queens Borough Hall?