Jun 21, 2011

Mayors: Schools Should Take Steps To Boost Effective Teaching (As if they are not?)

The nation's mayors are at the frontlines of America's educational crisis. Failing schools can lead to high unemployment rates and high crime rates in our cities. The bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors, meeting in Baltimore this week, has adopted a resolution aimed at ensuring students have access to great teachers. That's an essential part of improving our schools, because teacher quality is the most important in-school factor that affects student learning.

The resolution starts with the premise that schools have to end the practice of making key personnel decisions based on seniority, or how long someone has been on the job, and start making decisions based on a teacher’s work with students.

Specifically, the mayors called for an end to the practice of conducting teacher layoffs based on last in, first out (LIFO) rules. Noting that teacher effectiveness is critical, the mayors said seniority should only be a determining factor in layoff decisions when two teachers have been evaluated as equally effective. The timing of the resolution is critical. Many school districts are facing budget shortfalls and are grappling with difficult staffing decisions now.

The resolution also calls for meaningful evaluation systems for teachers and principals. That might sound like common sense or management 101, but too often educators go without adequate evaluations and the feedback that comes with them. The mayors' proposal states that multiple measures ought to be used to judge success, because you generally shouldn't base these employment decisions on only one factor. However, the resolution makes the important point that evaluations have to be linked to critical data reflecting how students are progressing academically.

For more on the resolution or the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Baltimore, click here: www.usmayors.org.

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