Grand Rapids Public Schools is laying off teachers this year and will be using an evaluation system that takes performance — rather than seniority — into account, according to WOOD-TV.

The local teachers union president is unhappy, calling the system "unfair and subjective."

Previously, when school districts made layoffs in response to declining enrollment (Grand Rapids will be down about 700 students this year), they did so based strictly on longevity, ignoring how good teachers actually were at their jobs. And when districts had a problem teacher, even criminal, the tenure process made it nearly impossible to remove them.

Recent legislation dealing with teacher effectiveness and tenure means schools have to try to measure educators' performance when making personnel decisions. While layoffs based on ability may seem extreme to union leaders, it is the norm in the rest of the working world.

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So the options are an evaluation system that would lay off employees based on how well they do their job or letting people go based on the method of "last in, first out." There may be problems with evaluation systems, so the union, teachers and administration should try and improve them. It’s certainly a better option than making decisions based on the number of years a teacher has been on the job, regardless of whether they are effective in the classroom.

If it is "all about the kids," as school unions and administrators repeatedly say, layoffs based on seniority make little sense. The union should work to make evaluations better instead of clamoring for the old system, which was far worse.


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