Opinions mixed about end to ‘Last In First Out’Published 5:12pm Monday, July 25, 2011
New legislation signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder last week will change the way educators and administrators are evaluated for performance and effectiveness.
The legislation, a bundle of tenure reform, also brought an end to the common practice known as “Last In First Out,” the termination of teachers based upon seniority.
“Making staffing decisions based on merit and performance encourages good teachers to keep doing what they are doing and helps ensure students receive the highest quality education,” Snyder said. “This long overdue reform will protect outstanding teachers who are enthusiastic about the material and able to connect with students in a way that makes them want to learn.”
District officials are waiting on the findings of a special committee Snyder will put together to devise an instrument to be used for evaluations.
“The government is going to appoint this council, kind of an ad hoc council that is going to be charged with coming up with an evaluation tool,” said Brandywine Community Schools Supt. John Jarpe.
Brandywine and the Niles Community Schools districts redesigned their evaluation systems of teachers recently. Jarpe said his district will have to wait and see if its current practices coincide with what is passed down from the state.
“I think this is a valuable piece for retaining exceptional teachers,” said Niles Supt. Richard Weigel. “Greater years of service should equal greater abilities.”
Administrators would also be held up to new evaluation standards through the new legislation.
“I think it’s good,” Jarpe said. “There’s probably parts of this tenure law that have people very nervous or very concerned but accountability — any time you can get all of us being accountable for student learning, that’s what it’s about.” The changes could be considered controversial in an already contentious relationship between supporters of education reform and those who find some proposed changes in many states in opposition to the objectives of the union.
There is also the lingering question of just how a teacher or administrator’s performance should be measured.
“That’s going to be the tricky hurdle in this whole thing,” Jarpe said. “How do you define what acceptable student achievement growth is? There is going to have to be a pre-test and a post-test involved in this whole thing.”
The move to end the practice of Last In First Out will also affect districts, especially those such as Niles, that have yet to ratify a contract with their teachers’ union.
Through the new legislation, in the instance of a teacher layoff, school districts would no longer be limited to those “first in” teachers, with less seniority than others.
Both superintendents believe the change to be a positive one for school districts.
“I think teachers are concerned that they may be laid off for monetary reasons or there may be reasons that don’t have anything to do with their performance,” Jarpe said. “I think that’s a concern a lot of them have. I would never do that, I would never lay them off just because they’re making more money than somebody else if they’re an effective teacher.”
And that would seem to be the ultimate benefit, Weigel said. The end of Last In First Out is “about having the greatest impact on our kids.”
According to Weigel, districts under contract with their unions would have to wait for the contract to expire before the law would take effect. That means Brandywine would not feel the effects of the new legislation until its contract ends next year.
But Niles is still in negotiations and that means conversations at the bargaining table may take on a new tone.
“I would think it would take things off the table that are already decided and we wouldn’t have to negotiate them,” said Niles’ board of education president Jeff Curry.
Several issues contained in the new package of laws will change the discussions going forward.
“They have an immediate impact on negotiations,” Weigel said. “Part of our new contract would no longer be admissible parts of collective bargaining.”