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If Seniority Did Not Matter

The second graders were all over the place, talking and laughing as they worked at their various centers.  The teacher moved from group to group, listening and assisting.

After a while, the teacher moved to the center of the center of the room, and she said quietly, “If you can hear my voice, snap your fingers.”  Two-thirds of the children stopped what they were doing and snapped.

Snapping_fingers The teacher paused and said again, “If you can hear my voice, snap your fingers.”  Snap! Snap! All 25 kids, sitting or standing quietly, waited to hear what the teacher would say.

Wow, I thought.  That is classroom management

“Boys and girls,” the teacher said, “Please put the things away at each center and return to your desks.”  It was done in less than a minute.

Here’s what the teacher didn’t say:  “I like the way Melody cleared her desk.  I like the way Sam is sitting.  I like the way Susan has her hands folded and is listening.”

This teacher knows it’s not about compliance and it’s not about creepily singling kids out as goody goodies.  It’s about building trust with kids so they know that when the teacher speaks, she has something to say they’ll want to hear.

I watch her teach for another half hour or so, as she deftly guides students through reading.  I’m glad that a child I love is in this classroom. 

But this teacher is on the low end of seniority, having fewer than 5 years in the system, and would be “on the bubble” in a reduction in force based on seniority.

Which brings me to Dan Goldhaber’s blog about seniority based layoffs.   Based on a study he did for the Center for Education Data and Research (CEDR), the post synthesizes the data regarding the impact of RIFS based on seniority.  Here is an important conclusion:

Student achievement in affected classrooms is estimated to be on the order of magnitude of 2.5 to 3.5 months of student learning better under a system that considers teacher effectiveness than one that is driven by seniority.

Of course, seniority and effectiveness are not mutually exclusive.  If teachers continued to learn and grow and increase their skills, the seniority issue would be a moot point.



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