Mar 23, 2011

Is Getting Rid of Last-In, First-Out Disrespectful To Teachers?

On March 15, 2011, in his blog posting, "What it really means to put students first," educator Tony Pedriana voiced his support for ending Last-in, First-Out policies (LIFO) during lay-off decisions. There was quite a response from readers who found this controversial. Do you agree? Read his response to readers here.

Tony Pedriana worked for over thirty years as a teacher, principal, and mentor in Milwaukee's central city. During his career as an educator, he has focused on improved pedagogy and professional development for teachers in reading. He is the author of “Leaving Johnny Behind: Overcoming Barriers to Literacy.”

In my last posting, I supported Michelle Rhee for her efforts to end the practice of LIFO (Last In - First Out).  That comment seemed to strike a nerve among some who assumed it was just another attempt to bash teachers and their unions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  During my teaching years I was an active union member, served on my school’s building committee and had several stints as Building Representative.  I also led the charge on the picket line during our two strikes in the 70’s when we fought for and won many of the rights and due process protections teachers enjoy today.

However it was never my intention to defend marginal teachers who did little more than simply go through the motions.  I never sought to protect those who felt that student achievement was somehow beyond their purview and who felt that lack of parent involvement somehow absolved them of any responsibility whatsoever.

As a principal, the greatest pressure I faced in dealing with low performing teachers did not come from the superintendent, the school board, or even parents.  Most of the pressure came from other teachers, the kind who put their collective souls on the line for kids every day.
These teachers were always prepared, always exuded a positive attitude, responded with love and compassion to even the most formidable of challenges, and who willingly and effectively collaborated in school-wide improvement initiatives.  You will have to excuse them if they found it difficult to abide others who filled instructional time with busywork, whose classrooms were unruly and disruptive, and who felt their responsibility ended as soon as the children left each day.

Teachers who truly seek to put children first are neither threatened nor intimidated by an end to LIFO.  To the contrary, it would shine a light on their superior efforts, increase the number of positive role models and enhance their job security in the process.  Only those looking to milk the system would have cause to tremble.  To those who feel that that is unfair to teachers, I would only ask, “What about fairness to kids?” 

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