May 13, 2011

Last In, First Out Hurts Kids

Angela taught in Columbus City Schools where she enjoyed a short tenure as a kindergarten and first grade teacher; due to the "Last In, First Out" policy, she was forced out after two years. After leaving Columbus, she got a job at one of the best elementary schools in the greater Columbus area.
As a teacher affected by last in, first out policies, the current education debate really resonates with me. I taught for two years in Columbus, Ohio. Toward the end of my second year, I signed a contract to come back for another year. A few weeks later, however, I got laid off. It was a shock. I was so disappointed in the system. It let me down, my principal down, and worst of all, it let the children down.
I taught at a school where nearly all of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch. My school needed teachers who were passionate, determined, and willing to do anything for their students. It needed teachers who referred to their students as "my kids." I always found myself using that term, because they were more than just students to me -- and I was more than just their teacher.
Last in, first out, or LIFO for short, dictates that senior teachers get to stay when there are reductions in force while new ones have to leave. What frustrates me most about using seniority, instead of teacher quality, to make these decisions, is it can support educators who shouldn't be teaching. Teachers who consistently do not produce student gains should not be responsible for educating the young minds of our society. This is a backward policy. We should be focusing on providing children with an excellent education, not on supporting teachers who continue to let students down.
Every year around this time, particularly in low-income communities where LIFO hits hardest because so many schools rely on new teachers, teachers are informed that they are being laid off. Many of these teachers are talented, and determined educators who are the hardest working people in their schools. And many are teachers who want to be in low-income communities helping make sure every child get a good education. But they aren't given that choice. Instead, they are forced to leave the profession or find a job elsewhere -- sometimes in a more affluent community. I wanted to stay at my old school. I wanted to grow as an educator and continue helping to improve a community that wanted me to be there. I wanted to show my students the power of learning and education. But I didn’t get that chance, and my students were the ones to suffer.
Now, a year after I was laid off, I am teaching in a wealthier school district and I have grown as an educator. If not for LIFO, I would still be teaching in Columbus and would still be helping my kids pave a positive future for themselves. I spent most of this year worrying about whether or not my current one-year contract would be extended. Luckily it was, for one more year anyway. So next year, my fourth year as a teacher, I will again worry about my job status. Oddly enough, I won't be worried about my status because of my actual performance. I'll be worrying because of arbitrary seniority rules.
Many of our social problems are deeply rooted. For things to improve, we need change within our education system. Our public education should exist to provide an equal opportunity for all no matter where people live or what they look like. LIFO stops this from happening. We need to start advocating more for policies that best benefit students, which will in turn benefit society as a whole. Getting rid of LIFO would be a great first step.
The views presented on our guest blogs are the views of the author and do not ne cessarily represent the views of StudentsFirst. We thank all of our guest bloggers for their thoughtful perspectives.

No comments:

Post a Comment