. . . . Seniority trumps everything and is treated as a proxy for excellence. Under current rules, a school that has an enrollment shortfall or budget problem and has to cut one of its five math teachers cuts the least senior teacher, period. In progressive systems like the one in Washington, D.C., which has made big gains on federal assessment tests, decisions about which teachers to cut are based on a combination of factors, including how they stack up on evaluations and whether they possess special skills. The goal is to keep the most talented teachers.
Similarly, the salary schedule in New York is calculated to reward longevity, requiring 22 years to get to the top level. Teachers are also rewarded for work toward advanced degrees, but this coursework does not necessarily have any bearing on how poorly or well they teach. . . .
If seniority doesn't matter, and youthful energy and smarts are everything, why stop with the teaching profession? Every business, including the journalism industry (are you listening, NYT?) should adopt a performance-based compensation system. For journalism, it shouldn't matter how long you've been reporting news. If a new graduate from an elite journalism school can write a better editorial at the New York Times, why not replace the old guard? Similarly, our military should forego seniority in its promotions. Newer, younger, and high performing soldiers should replace high ranking, experienced officers. The same with the airline industry. Let inexperienced but bright and high performing pilots replace those old, lazy captains who are protected by the unions. Hospitals should rid themselves of experienced doctors and replace them with new ones with Harvard smarts and youthful energy. Older corporate CEO's should make room for the new kid from Yale; maybe we can avoid more Wall Street crashes, mine disasters, and Deep Water Horizon-type catastrophes.
Anyway, this editorial is distinguished by an obsessive focus on teachers, which has prevented overdue acknowledgement of negative social conditions in many urban neighborhoods. That is very revealing.