What the Sunshine State can learn from Georgia

It’s an exciting time in the Peach State, as
Georgia is on the road to eliminating seniority-based layoffs—and is doing so
in a smart, constructive manner to boot. See, Georgia’s law would create a
flexible plan for performance evaluation, mandating that local school and district managers revamp
teacher-evaluation systems, but allowing them the flexibility to determine what
those systems will look like. SB 184
sets three basic policies: Local school boards can no longer use length of
tenure as the “primary or sole determining factor” in layoff decisions;
performance should be the primary determining factor in making these layoffs
(and “one measure of [teachers’
skills] may be student academic performance”); effective professional
development must be identified by 2015 to help all teachers improve their
craft. This
approach provides a strong model for Georgia’s neighbor to the Southeast. Instead of
pushing forward a broad framework for reductions in force while empowering
districts to work out the details locally, Florida’s recently enacted SB 736
mandates state-level salary structures, establishes a learning growth model to
measure teacher effectiveness, and limits district freedoms when it comes to
letting teachers go. Kudos to Georgia for their smart thinking. Let’s hope the
Gators take heed.

trumps seniority for teachers in House vote
,” by April Hunt and Nancy
Badertscher, Atlanta Journal Constitution,
April 11, 2011.

Senate Bill 736: With ‘Wins’ Like These…
,” by Rick Hess, Straight Up Blog, April 4, 2011.

Chris Tessone
Chris Tessone is a Director of Finance and Operations; at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute