Charters as Examples in Multiple Ways

Readers’ first reaction to this story may be “let my charters go”:

Stymied by contractual rules that control the hiring and placement of teachers, three unionized charter schools are exploring whether to seek independence from the districts that govern them.
Times2 Academy and the Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy, both in Providence, and the New England Laborers Academy/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy have expressed frustration with collective-bargaining language that permits teachers with more seniority to displace — or “bump” — those with less.

After all, some of the justifying evidence is pretty egregious:

Several years ago, 25 of the 35 teachers at Times2 Academy received layoff notices, including the entire elementary school staff. That same year, one-third of the faculty members at Textron received pink slips. Bumping wreaks havoc with small, innovative schools that strive to create learning environments where teachers collaborate on instruction and faculty members get to know their students. …
“We are concerned about anything that would stifle innovation,” Davis said. “At Times2, 72 percent of teachers received a pink slip this spring. When more than two-thirds of our teachers are being told, ‘Take a hike,’ that is massively disruptive. Times2 has the highest high school graduation rate in the state. We can’t afford to put those students at risk.”

With a little more consideration, however, one’s inclination should be less to let the charters increase their independence (although that should happen, as well) than to address the problem for all schools. Status as a non-charter school does not make it any less disruptive to see large shifts in personnel.
Simply put, the one-two gut punch of bumping and seniority-based assignments and layoffs have no place in a profession like teaching, given the importance of talent — and specificity in talent — as well as consistency and community for the students. When a specific position is set to be eliminated, for whatever reason, that should be that. When faced with the necessity of broader layoffs, districts should be able to confer with principals and other school leaders to weigh the many class, program, school, and district–based factors that bear on each position.
The charters’ charge of innovation most definitely highlights the problems in public education, but once identified, we should eliminate those problems for all schools.

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