Out with the Old

The civil rights issue of our time will require replacing old, non-excellent teachers with fresh new ones.
It is a true fact that young teachers are not only “fresher” but also more innovative and excellent. Now confirmed by a growing body of evidence (see scientific chart below), this scientific finding presents us with a quandary, not to mention a conundrum. How do we slough off all of the old, non-excellent teachers with their millstones of experience and pension obligations? And how much more unpleasant do we have to make their jobs before they finally get the hint and head through the double doors once and for all?

Case closed
First, a brief review of the mountain of mounting evidence. Last week saw the release of yet another study confirming once and for all that academies of excellence and innovation in Boston are even more outstanding than previously believed. Not only are teachers at the city’s six charter high schools *crushing* the achievement gap in every way, but they are also looking great while doing it. According to the study, just 5% of charter teachers are 49 years or older, compared with 35% in the failed and failing public high schools. More than 75% of the charter teachers are under the age of 32, which according to the chart below highly correlates with excellence. Note: this excellence is currently available in English only. While more than 30% of students in the Boston Public Schools are still learning English, the study’s authors were unable to locate enough English language learners in Boston’s charter schools to determine whether they benefit from enhanced excellence. (See page 33.)

Evaluation sensation
Now that we have seen for ourselves the power of freshness in action, how do we start getting rid of all of the old baddies who are single-handedly causing the achievement gap to widen with their middle-age spread? Excellent news, reader. While Boston’s brand new teacher evaluation system is being widely condemned by experts for failing to fail enough teachers, the system is proving remarkably effective at revealing the nonexcellence of older teachers. Fourteen percent of teachers over 50 were found to suffer from excellence depletion, compared to just 6% of teachers in their twenties. Note: minority teachers were also far more likely to be rated as “non-excellent” than their white peers, but we will save this somewhat *awkward* issue for another day.

Standing for children
Since experience is clearly a liability in teaching, wouldn’t it make sense to pass a law prohibiting school administrators from considering experience in the case of layoffs? Reader: this is where our feel good story transmorphs into a feel great story. You see, thanks to a great deal of standing for children and a surging grassroots movement, Massachusetts now has just such a law in place. Called Great Teachers, Great Schools, it will finally give students unparalleled access to freshness and excellence, no matter which side of the excellence divide they inhabit. (Note: for more information do not go to http://www.greatteachersgreatschools.org/ as Stand for Children allowed that URL to expire after the grassroots movement completed its surge.)

Lifting the freshness cap
Meanwhile, grassroots support for lifting Massachusetts’ artificial cap on outstandingness, innovation—and yes, freshness—is also surging. And as Boston follows the proven path of success and excellence followed by Washington, DC, Chicago and other cities, we will have plenty of opportunities to replace LIFO-lifers and their low expectations with fresh, more excellent teachers. With Boston’s six charter schools that serve high-school aged students producing an average of 36 seniors per year, replicating the success of those schools citywide will require opening an additional 107 charter high schools. Now that’s a lot of fresh meat.

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  1. If I get diagnosed with something that requires brain surgery I would rather have a young “fresh” brain surgeon to work on me rather than a veteran surgeon who is just too old to maneuver through my delicate frontal lobe. Right? That makes sense.

    1. My feelings exactly! The old surgeons have shaky hands and I always worry that they’ll inadvertently drop some of their dry toast crumbs into my brain stem. Frankly I don’t even mind if the surgeon lacks medical training as long as he or she went to an Ivy League school. I figure that if they are smart enough to get into Harvard (and then into Yale Law School when they tire of brain surgery), they are smart enough to have a go at my lobes.

  2. Personally I’d prefer to go with an Ivy League Slice for America volunteer. Who wants to be bogged down with all of that career surgeon baggage when you can get your lobes waxed with excellence by a preppy go getter who has bigger fish to fry than hanging around some drafty surgery room for the length of a career. Two years with the scalpel then onto Price Waterhouse or Goldman Sachs where the real action’s at. That’s the ticket.

  3. Slice for America indeed! Come to think of it, shouldn’t brain surgeons have access to the same great alternative certification paths that are springing up in education???

  4. It’s not that the new teachers are better. The new teachers get all the credit for the thorough curriculum planning of veteran founding teachers who left behind polished notes of all that they did. I’ve watched it happen.

  5. Some things that the “deep” analyses from the Boston Globe omit because of the authors’ ideological leanings: 1) there’s likely to be skew towards older teachers being underperforming because provisional teachers (in that 20-29 age band) can be let go without an evaluation within the first 90 days of the school year, 2) this information woudln’t be accessible without the new evaluation system, the district lost evaluations in previous years, and less than 25% of teachers had received evaluations in previous years, 3) the rubber may hit the road with principal evaluations, and the seriousness with which they take providing feedback to teachers.

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