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Keep teacher judging process simple
by Larry Wilson
May 10, 2011 | 536 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In developing his budget, Gov. Brian Sandoval has been pursuing the ultimate dismantling of the state’s public school system from kindergarten to the university system, along the way spouting “no new taxes” from the highest hills.

Part of his educational program includes eliminating what he calls the seniority system in the hiring and firing of the state’s public school teachers. His ignorance of the system is glaring in that there is no tenure or seniority in the employment of the state’s public school teachers. Tenure does exist at the university level, but it is an earned status with a procedure that is followed in acquiring it as with any other employee standing.

Sandoval wants only the best teachers to be retained for employment each year. If there are to be any kinds of layoffs, he says only the best teachers should be retained. He does not agree with the current system of “last in, first out” when it comes to laying off public school teachers.

I don’t think anyone would argue against retaining the best employee for any position if there were a fair way to distinguish that employee from others.

Have you ever looked at a photo of a class of public school students? I’m talking about an elementary school class photo. We’ve all seen them. It doesn’t make any difference what generation the photo is from because the class almost always looks like a rag-tag bunch of the Our Gang kids from yesteryear. I know, looks don’t make the person smart or otherwise, but those photos show very vividly the quality of the student raw material teachers get for their class each school year. That picture also doesn’t take into account the kids who come and go throughout the year.

Some of those kids perform as though they were the offspring of Albert Einstein and others perform as if they belong to the same gene pool as the famous bell ringer from Notre Dame — Quasimodo.

Regardless of the class, I don’t know any teacher who hasn’t given at least 100 percent toward bettering his or her students’ performances throughout the year. That’s their job. Why, on God’s green earth, would any teacher not at least try to improve their class during the school year? Does the governor think teachers sit in the faculty room all year to avoid the challenge of meeting the academic, social, psychological and medical needs of each member of his or her class? Governor, you need to follow a teacher, any teacher, around throughout several school days and see what kind of slackers you’ve got working for the students in Nevada. I think you would change your tune about how to lay off teachers if layoffs are in the offing. Teachers are good at recognizing ignorant ideas and your idea is a classic example of one.

Let’s say that Suzy Teacher, a 15-year veteran educator, gets a class one year in which half the class is burning up the record books on test scores and the other half bombs these same tests as though they were sired by Alfred E. Newman from Mad magazine. Ms. Suzy is graded each year on her students’ performance on the all-seeing, all-knowing annual tests. My question to the honorable governor of the great state of Nevada is: How are you going to grade Ms. Suzy this year? Her classes have performed marvelously every year up until this year.

There are going to be layoffs among the teachers in the Nevada public school system this year and you’re basing the decision on who gets laid off by each class’ performance on those all-mighty tests. Does Ms. Suzy get laid off? How do you justify your decision, Mr. Governor?  The current method for layoffs, should they be necessary this year, although not an enjoyable thing to have happen, does work fairly. One thing I learned from some teacher a long time ago was the KISS principle: Keep it simple, stupid.

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be contacted at
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