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Published in New York Times

To the editor

These letters make excellent points. Go forth and do likewise.

NOTE: the article to which these writers are responded included a slide show-profile of very appealing young teachers who will be the first to be let go under a seniority system. No appealing profiles of teachers with a lot of seniority.

Last In, Most Worried (news article, March 6) highlights young teachers whose jobs are at risk because of their lack of seniority. But there are good arguments to be made for seniority.

Teaching is a craft that develops over time, with five to seven years the typical maturation period. Half of new teachers will not stay in teaching through their fifth year, even if there are no layoffs.

A first- or second-year teacher is not as accomplished as one with 10 or 15 years of experience, but is much less expensive. Using performance as a criterion for dismissal is a smokescreen used to divert attention away from the real agenda: saving money on salaries and benefits.

Veteran teachers can also be at risk of dismissal because they are not cronies of their principal, are âunion peopleâ or work in schools where student attendance and lack of parental involvement are major obstacles to student success.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, âlast in, first outâ may be the worst system, except for all the others.

Stewart Singer

Plainview, N.Y., March 6, 2011

The writer was a public school teacher for 40 years.


To the Editor:

Education is a social science and not a business. Letâs develop a system to grade teachers on what they do with what theyâve got, but donât think that comparing class test scores year to year is the same as Macyâs looking at âsame store salesâ this year versus a year ago.

Ask any teacher: students are individuals; class composition from the same neighborhood differs from year to year; and the surrounding social and economic environment changes in unpredictable ways.

Carter L. Colter

Milford, Conn., March 7, 2011


To the Editor:

Seniority-based systems for promotion and dismissal have numerous virtues. Their application is simple, low-cost and transparent, with little potential for illegal discrimination. They reward employee loyalty and encourage work force stability and retention.

While I believe that performance-based systems are potentially superior, the critics of seniority systems should accept that it is difficult, time-consuming and very expensive to develop and implement valid measures of performance in many types of jobs, particularly teaching. A poorly designed system can be more costly, cumbersome and discriminatory without being more accurate in its ability to differentiate good teachers from bad.

Performance-based evaluation systems are common in the private sector. I would ask any employee who is clamoring for them to be applied immediately to teachers to answer a simple question: How fair and accurate do you think your annual performance appraisal was?

David J. Prottas

Garden City, N.Y., March 6, 2011

The writer is an assistant professor at the Adelphi University School of Business.


To the Editor:

Re âCritics Say Cuomoâs Teacher Plan Falls Short on Seniority Rule for Layoffsâ (news article, March 3):

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is quoted as saying, âThe length of time that you have worked is irrelevant to whether or not you can do what our children need to be self-sufficient as they become adults, and to enjoy the great American dream.â

I would like to ask the mayor if he is willing to fire his staff and replace them with newly graduated college students; whether time, experience and practice havenât made him any better at his job; and whether that is the lesson heâd like our children to learn: Practice makes you ... no more perfect.

Sharon Wagner

Brooklyn, March 3, 2011

The writer is a special education teacher.

multiple authors

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