NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 27, 2006

States are unlikely to improve teacher quality until they address one of the main problems in spreading qualified teachers equitably throughout schools: teacher bumping, says the New York Times. 

The problem is twofold, says the Times:

  • Union rules basically guarantee senior teachers the right to change schools whenever they want -- even if the principal of the receiving school does not want them. 
  • In addition, principals who wish to shed ineffective teachers often force them out with the threat of negative evaluations, turning the transferring teacher into the receiving school's problem.

The practice hits younger teachers the hardest:

  • Teachers with no seniority rights to protect them often quit the field after being shunted from one place to another.
  • Others give up on the urban school systems where the bumping process is most prevalent and move to the suburbs.
  • Meanwhile, back in the city, schools cobble together their staffs after the school year has begun, losing valuable instructional time.

Some are beginning to recognize the problem.  New York and California have laws against forced transfer, for example.  But overall, urban systems throughout the country need to move more toward reform, says the Times. A senior teacher who has been forced out of a school or who simply wishes to move elsewhere should be guaranteed an interview at the preferred school, but not a job.

Source: Editorial, "Bumping in Schools," New York Times, December 27, 2006.

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