Curriculum

Fewer Phila. Teachers Hired on Seniority Basis

By Jeff Archer — September 07, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students in Philadelphia are set to return to class this week to schools in which record numbers of teachers were hired for reasons other than their years of experience.

Changes made last year to the teachers’ union contract have chipped away significantly at long-standing, and long-debated, rules that have guaranteed open positions in schools to the most veteran teachers who apply.

Seniority hasn’t been eliminated as a factor, but it’s been greatly reduced. At a minimum, each school now has the option to fill half its openings through site-based selection. Newly configured schools needn’t consider seniority at all, nor must schools where three-quarters of the teachers agree not to.

“The bottom line is that the vast majority of principals have been given the authority to make decisions based on talent rather than on seniority,” said Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer of the 210,000-student district.

As a result, the district reports that 555 teaching positions were filled using the site-selection process through the end of July, compared with 386 handled the traditional way. Last year, when the site-based option was limited to schools that got the approval of their staffs, the number of site- selected hires was 119.

Ruth Curran Neild, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education, in Philadelphia, said the change in the district’s teacher-assignment process was long overdue.

“It’s hard to imagine any business in any industry that would want to hire an employee without finding out about their interests, their background, their qualifications, and how they would fit into the existing employee culture,” said Ms. Neild, who has researched the issue.

But Will They Come?

Critics of the seniority-based process further say it has kept newer teachers waiting to find out which school they might work at until after their more-seasoned colleagues had the chance to make their picks of openings. That, they add, put the city at a disadvantage in recruiting novice educators.

Leaders of the district, which was put under state control in 2001, pushed hard for changes in the teachers’ contract during negotiations last year. They noted that, until then, only 42 of the district’s 270 schools had voted on their own to adopt site selection in staffing.

Even with the new contract, principals didn’t flex all the authority given them. The total number of vacancies districtwide that could have been filled through July using the new procedure was 820. District leaders argued nonetheless that it was important that principals at least had a choice of methods.

Jerry Jordan, the vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said he isn’t convinced the new contract language will improve student results. Letting schools choose their hires still doesn’t mean that better teachers will want to work in the most challenging schools, he said.

“Where you have very good working conditions, you’re going to have good teachers voluntarily site-select into those schools,” he said.

Still, he praised district leaders for working with the union to get the word out on how to navigate the new hiring process. Among other efforts, the district greatly enhanced its Web-based system for schools to post openings and let teachers shop for them.

With school leaders more empowered to choose who works in their buildings, Mr. Vallas predicts the district will continue to make steady gains in achievement. Results released last week showed the percentage of needy students who scored at the proficient level on state reading tests has more than doubled since 2002, from 15 percent to 31 percent.

“When principals are allowed to hire the best candidates, they go out and get the best,” Mr. Vallas said.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Seamless Integrations for Engagement in the Classroom
Learn how to seamlessly integrate new technologies into your classroom to support student engagement. 
Content provided by GoGuardian
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Webinar
Be the Change: Strategies to Make Year-Round Hiring Happen
Learn how to leverage actionable insights to diversify your recruiting efforts and successfully deploy a year-round recruiting plan.
Content provided by Frontline
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Critical Ways Leaders Can Build a Culture of Belonging and Achievement
Explore innovative practices for using technology to build an environment of belonging and achievement for all staff and students.
Content provided by DreamBox Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Curriculum The Case for Curriculum: Why Some States Are Prioritizing It With COVID Relief Funds
States are helping districts select improved curriculum and integrate it into learning recovery strategies.
5 min read
Images shows a data trend line climbing high and going low.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Curriculum Many Adults Did Not Learn Media Literacy Skills in High School. What Schools Can Do Now
Eighty-four percent of adults say they are on board with requiring media literacy in schools, according to a survey by Media Literacy Now.
4 min read
Image of someone reading news on their phone.
oatawa/iStock/Getty
Curriculum Is Your School Facing a Book Challenge? These Online Resources May Help
Book challenges are popping up with more frequency. Here are supports for teachers fighting censorship.
5 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Amanda Darrow, the director of youth, family, and education programs at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in recent weeks.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo
Curriculum Q&A These Teachers' Book List Was Going to Be Restricted. Their Students Fought Back
The Central York district planned to restrict use of some materials last year. Here's how teachers and their students turned the tide.
8 min read
Deb Lambert, director of collection management for the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library for the past three years, looks over the books at the Library Services Center on Sept. 25, 2015. When a flap occurs at the library, the matter becomes the responsibility of Lambert.
More districts are seeking to restrict access to some books or remove them from classrooms and libraries altogether.
Charlie Nye/The Indianapolis Star via AP