LIFO, keeping Lifers protected
What is LIFO? It stands for “Last In, First Out.” It’s a concept used by school systems basing personnel reduction decisions on teacher seniority, not teacher effectiveness. In a nutshell, if teacher layoffs are required, the teachers with the most seniority keep their jobs and the ones with the least amount of seniority are sent packing, without any consideration given to how effective a teacher the junior teachers are.
Let me try to illustrate it in a hypothetical situation: …
You have a first year teacher in a middle school where three benchmark exams are administered, in addition the TCAP in the next-to-last month of the school year (Results will not be in until after school is out on TCAP results). A benchmark exam is given at the beginning of the school year to establish a baseline for his students. The second benchmark exam is administered in late-fall to early-winter and his students show a gain of almost 18%. The third benchmark exam is administered in the spring and his students register a gain of nearly 21%. No other teacher even came close to his results. Some of the teachers even posted results in the negative numbers, meaning their students didn’t even retain what they knew at the baseline exam in the beginning. He is showing markedly consistent gains with students under his tutelage. His achievments with his students has outperformed every other class in the entire middle school on both – count ’em 2 – benchmark exams. However, he is the one that gets the proverbial axe, when personnel cuts roll around for the upcoming school year. Why? Can you give me a logical and rational reason as to why this is the preferred method for reducing the workforce in education? Anyone?
By the way, this situation is not all that “hypothetical.” It’s an actual scenario playing out as this very school year closes out. You might also be interested to know that this teacher’s student makeup includes inclusion classes. You don’t know what “inclusion” means? You may know it better as an older term referred to as “mainstreaming.” Still don’t know what it is? Okay…… In a nutshell, the concept involves the inclusion of special education students (i.e. students with learning disabilities) in a regular education classroom. This teacher’s “inclusion” numbers are pretty high, even compared to the rest of the school, which serves inner-city youth. By the way, when I said he outperformed all of the other teachers in the middle school, that was counting the more senior teacher instructing the advanced placement (i.e. AP) courses. So, again, I ask you, “Why?” Why is he the one cut loose and lower-performers remain?
Research has consistently shown that teachers are the most important factor in determining how much a student learns. So, why is this first year teacher the one let go and the underperformers the ones being kept in the classrooms? Does this concept sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Then, do something about it. Tell your elected officials in Tennessee’s state government. Don’t just sit back and wait for someone else to do it. How hard is it for you to click a link and send a message to your elected representatives that takes all of about two minutes?
There was a very interesting Op-Ed in the Tennessean on 4/16/11 touching on the LIFO subject by former-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, founder and chairman of the non-profit State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE for short) and Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of StudentsFirst.
We are starting to see some reforms taking place in education, such as tying teacher tenure to evaluations and observations. However, we still have a very long way to go. Even that change does not have a retroactive effect to deal with entrenched, ineffective tenured teachers already in the system. I won’t even get started on the issue of collective bargaining and what needs to happen with it in this post. The education system needs good administrators too. Parents have to take an ownership role in their child’s educational success. If students are not up-to-par (i.e. They’re failing), they do not need to pass on to the next grade. If all we do is focus on the teachers, we are simply only doing one thing. The state of education is not a single problem issue. It is multi-faceted. This is no time for tunnel vision. Somebody move the trees and take a long, hard look at the forest, please.
UPDATE: Interesting article in the Commercial Appeal from 5-13-11 addressing LIFO.