Why we need to save great teachers

Okay, it’s kind of a given for why we need to make sure great teachers keep teaching America’s children. If you’ve had a great teacher, you know what I mean. If you’ve had a bad teacher, you know what I mean. StudentsFirst argues for the end of last in, first out, which is a firing policy based on seniority. If teachers are going to be fired, the last teachers hired have to go first.

Watch the video below on why we need to do what we can to make sure students are getting the best education possible.

Does last in, first out need to go?

[StudentsFirst via @alexlundry]


  • Agree wholeheartedly that firing the newest isn’t the preferred way. Merit should have a role in the decision, but this is also no different than most corporations.

    Also, many first through third year teachers aren’t as good as their seasoned counterparts. Perhaps once you have X amount of years in to prove yourself, then all is fair game for being laid off.

    Finally- the chart that should how important a good teacher is by graphing a good first grade one vs a bad is preposterous. It takes a way from the message. A 1st grade teacher would have to be a monkey to have that still impact the child when he/she was in 7th grade. StudentsFirst – show us the #’s on that please

    • Cristobal April 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

      I would bet that corporations would not follow a similar methodology if labor laws didn’t make firing so expensive.

      • Everyone should have the right of due-process. There are bad experienced teachers as well as bad inexperienced teachers. There should be well-documented, logical reasons why employees from either group are let go.

  • Why should any good teachers have to go? Why would any bad teachers want to stay? The last in, first out policies are so that experienced teachers have some job security. Our population isn’t getting smaller. We don’t need to cut the number of teachers dramatically. Why would we change the policies on how teachers are laid off? Remember, being laid off is different than being fired. And it doesn’t always take being fired – plenty of people who can’t teach well decide to leave for a less stressful job.

    There are people and organizations with lots of money behind this. Graph that!

  • I wish that the reality of this situation was as clear as this video makes it. I’ve been teaching 14 years and I can assure you of few things – teaching is hard – identifying great teachers is tricky – bad teachers should be fired (regardless of seniority) – paying for experience is not cheap – if there were no seniority protections, teachers would be muzzled to speak out against policies, etc.

    In the range of places where I’ve worked… I’ve been laid off (and quickly rehired when the budget was firmed up) – been next in line to be laid off and dodged it – been protected by seniority rules – known that without seniority, I would have been fired by an ineffective (wickedly ineffectively) principal that I was speaking out against and for kids.

    I currently sit in a relatively new school that if massive layoffs happen (and they very well might) our entire program that we have fought to built thoughtfully for effectively teaching and learning… would be gutted by seniority based layoffs. Something needs to give, but if done quickly… ugh.

    There isn’t an easy answer here… but what I will assure you is, that Students First has a motivation to make teachers beholden to a system that pays them for test scores. This, this is not the way to revolutionize education. There is a way to push us, pull us forward that honors both teacher and student… Students First isn’t interested in seniority because they propose a system that wouldn’t allow for teachers to learn, grow, improve, retool, react… understand that interacting with 132 distinct personalities on a daily basis while also providing meaningful feedback for learning, managing the wealth of problems that walk through the schoolhouse door with them… and knowing them as human beings instead of as a stanine or a percentage or a cut score.

    I teach kids. I put students first. This video isn’t about anything more than making a simple argument for a massively COMPLICATED issue. Sue has it right when she says follow the money on this one… and lpoulas is spot on for the numbers to back up the 1st grade teacher assertion. There are forces at work here that are spurred on by more than altruism.

    Here are some links to our school – where we are trying to do it differently, inside the public school system…
    http://video.pbs.org/video/1797357384 – The Science Leadership Academy portion starts at 40:00 and my portion starts at 44:30.

    • Rick Harris March 24, 2011 at 10:57 am

      There is a bit of irony here. The composition of the longest comment is so awkward and convoluted that it is difficult to understand. Poor writing skills will undermine any argument no matter how valid the argument. Sometimes the poor defense of a position does more to undermine that position than silence or a well crafted counter-argument.

      • Irony…: I suppose this is similar to your “or” in the last sentence. I got a little lost with it inserted.
        I thought Diana had some strong points as do you with idiots leading your platform.

    • Herschel Pecker March 24, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      I agree with you, Diana. Job security is one of the benefits that overworked, underpaid teachers do have. If the issue is getting rid of bad teachers, allowing a principal to decide who gets axed in layoffs is not the solution. And how messed up a situation would it be if you got cut because you were making “too much money?”

  • The visual seems to depict education as an industrial assembly line, which unfortunately, is how it seems in reality. Perhaps that’s a problem too.

  • The issue is much more complicated than the video portrays. It makes those on the outside seem like a very complicated problem can be easily solved. The first thing that needs to be done is to offer a different approach. I would think a statistical function that takes into account experience and teaching effectiveness would be the most appropriate. The problem is how to measure teacher effectiveness adequately. There are so many issues with this measure when you dive into the research or when you are involved first hand. Without a systematic approach personal bias will have a large effect.

  • I just watched “Waiting for Superman” (http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/synopsis) last night. This short video makes some similar points. The system treats teachers as “widgets” to their detriment and unfortunately to the detriment of children we’re trying to educate. As the documentary shows, change – even a common sense change like removing last in, first out – is extremely difficult.

  • I stopped watching after the part in which the authors claim that they know for a fact that “the best teachers are fired” in a seniority-based reduction in force system.
    1. There is currently no way to prove who are the best or the worst teachers.
    2. A Reduction in Force is a lay-off, not a firing, situation. Some of those teachers might be back if there is a recall.
    Poor teachers should be fired – after first being helped to see if they can improve. The RIF timeframe is much too short to use performance as a criterion for dismissal.

  • I have two points to contribute to the conversation.

    1) “Last in first out” may be a de facto policy, but it’s not an official policy. This piece of StudentsFirst propaganda provides the impression that it’s a simple policy that could be easily replaced, rather than an effect that’s a result of multiple aspects of policy and politics that are intertwined with other aspects of schools as environments.

    2) If you’re interested in data and education, you might want to do a piece on value added. Value added measurements are the tools being championed within the ed. policy world. However, it’s worth noting that most of the researchers who work with those tools don’t consider them to be adequate for making policy decisions.

    The bottom line with both of these things is that we’re talking about a complex phenomenon that cannot be easily reduced or even completely measured.

  • Here’s why we need better teachers: “If a child in the first grade has an ineffective teacher she will learn only half as much… By contrast a highly effective teacher can move a student through twice the expected learning each year. So a great teacher can produce… [drum roll]… 3 times more learning than low-performing teacher”. Did they really mean “4-fold the amount of learning, which is 400%-100% = 300% *more*”, or did they just get the math wrong?

  • What? The video’s over?

    Exactly what does it propose? HOW do we determine who the ‘good’ teachers are? And WHO determines that–those holy angels we all see parading around with halos and wings, making the world a better place, trusted by all because they’re fair to everyone?

    Perhaps if you simplify a bit more we can just hit a big red ‘Reform’ button and move on to more entertaining issues of vital concern.

  • Hadagoodteacher March 26, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Log base 2 fail!

  • Please do not give this pseudoscientific drivel an even wider audience than it currently has. For me, this video is the worst type of infographic. They are sloppy with the math, never define the axes, give vague “the research says” statements instead of citations, and demean the complex process of teaching, learning, and hiring and firing teachers. StudentsFirst is a political action (lobbying) organization founded by Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of DCPS, where I went, and where my dad teaches. Her policies were disastrous for DCPS, but she was a national media darling. After her policies were repudiated politically, she transformed her care for students into… a national lobbying group to fight teachers unions. Now she has allied herself with Republican governors like Chris Christie and Scott Walker.
    Please please please keep the ed reform nonsense propaganda out of FlowingData.

    • I agree. I think the placement of this video on FlowingData without the contradicting arguments (of which, there are many) is extremely upsetting. I think very highly of this site and to see this on here tarnishes its reputation in my eyes.