Generation Gap: Are Younger Teachers Really Better?

State Senator Lisa Brown has introduced a bill that the Times labeled, " Older Teachers Would Get Help to Retire Early under Senate Measure." From the article:

Senate Bill 5846 would allow teachers who want to retire before age 65 to get $250 a month over the next three years to help pay for health-insurance coverage until they can qualify for Medicare.

"Looming health-care costs for retiring teachers not only keep the highest paid teachers on the payroll who would otherwise exit the system, they create roadblocks for younger teachers eager to get their start in the classroom," Brown, D-Spokane, said in a statement.

Health care costs for ALL older workers generally go up so why teachers?

Brown said the measure is aimed at teachers within three years of retirement. She expects some, if not all, of the cost would be offset because the teachers leaving would be among the higher paid in the state due to their education and experience.

A full analysis has not been done yet projecting costs and potential savings.

What? Why is she sponsoring a bill that she hasn't done a full analysis on?

Here are some numbers:

Most teachers with at least 16 years of experience earn more than $57,000 a year, according to Brown's office. In comparison, a new teacher with a bachelor's degree starts out at a little over $34,000. Reducing the number of teachers making bigger salaries could lower overall education costs.

Senator Brown's rationale?

Most teachers with at least 16 years of experience earn more than $57,000 a year, according to Brown's office. In comparison, a new teacher with a bachelor's degree starts out at a little over $34,000. Reducing the number of teachers making bigger salaries could lower overall education costs

"The prime motivation is not just fiscal, but to recognize we have teachers who have dedicated decades of service to students and may have some health issues or be in a place where they are ready to move on into retirement and this could give them the opportunity to do that," Brown said in an interview.

"Younger teachers will have a little more space in the system, so it's a win-win from that perspective."

Okay, this might be good for some teachers on the fence about retiring. And yes, younger teachers cost less. But saying older teachers create "roadblocks"? And how old is "old"? Shouldn't legislators have term limits if it's a good idea for teachers?

There are absolutely some older teachers just putting in the time but there are also young teachers who absolutely don't seem to know what they are doing (Michelle Rhee put tape over a couple of kids' mouths in a desperate attempt at classroom management.) A good teacher is a good teacher.

Here's what the comments after the story said:

I really support union rights and senority, but these older teachers really aren't very good. I can't support terminating them because it will upset the unions. Let's pay them off so they will just leave and make room for the better younger teachers.

If old teachers are as worthless as Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Paul Rosier, executive director of the Washington Association of School Administrators, say they are, why don't we force them to find a new occupation at age 40?

Needless to say, older teachers should view this with skepticism, given the state's proven willingness to break financial promises to teachers.

National Board Certification stipends? Gone.
Voter-approved cost of living raises? Dumped.

Root out all the most experienced teachers just because they cost more and we will essentially root out many of the best teachers because of their experience and have a bunch of inexperienced teachers running every school. Age alone does not make a bad teacher.

One learns to do (anything) by doing! The older, experienced teachers are generally the best. Those who are not performing can be district-evaluated and retired.


Zebra (or Zulu) said…
The best teachers, in my experience, are those professionals for whom the classroom is a second career after retirement. I will name one case in point...Ted Nutting! There are many others in Seattle.

Ted is a retired Coast Guard Captain, now teaching Advanced Calculus at Ballard High.

Maybe Senator Brown could sit in on one of his classes before she asks HIM to retire...

"...Excuse me skipper, but could you pack your seabag and head for port? We gotta make room for an uncertified TFA upstart"

StepJ said…
Unless the bill contains provisions to allow the retiring teacher to continue with the same group health coverage (beyond the Fed. COBRA of 18 mos.), that said teacher is supplying health care for self only and not a family, and will also be able to access pension or other retirement accounts without penalty...$250 a month is not nearly enough.

Personal experience -- it all depends on the indiviual.

Some of the best teachers I experienced in both elementary and college were seasoned veterans. They still had a joy for teaching along with a obtained professionalism that allowed them to focus on teaching and not waste energy on the politics du jour (i.e.: MAP test.)

On the flip, was able to experience a fabulous first year instructor. In the fifth grade she had out classroom completing seventh grade math with confidence and pride.

It all depends on the individual.
ConcernedTeacher said…
Arizona tried this a few years ago - bought out all of their experienced teachers so they could retire early. Result? Test scores went down. Institutional knowledge wiped out. More pissed off parents. Teacher shortage, particularly in crucial areas, leading to them opening up teaching jobs to anyone. Needless to say, the Arizona education system is now a complete disaster (which is a shame, since I am a product of both the K-12 system and the higher ed system there, back when things were pretty darned good).

Some of the best teachers I work with have been in the classroom 20-25 years. I rely on their judgment and knowledge daily to help me improve my own practice. If they retired en masse, it would be a huge loss, both for those like me who learn from them, and for the students. I certainly can't look to my principal for instructional leadership and good classroom management or knowledge of curriculum.

I'm a younger teacher, but I'm certainly not better. I've got a lot to learn, and I need to have people to learn from in my building. What an insult to career educators!

David said…
The best teachers are the best teachers. All the teachers should be evaluated. If there is any evidence that quality of teaching is highly correlated with seniority, I am not aware of it (and would like to see it if someone can produce that data).

What is highly correlated with seniority is pay, and it is not clear that is a good thing. If entering teachers were paid anything like what more senior teachers get, there probably would be a lot more people attracted to the profession, more high quality teachers new teachers available to hire, and a lot more pressure on the poor performing teachers to leave.
Parent said…
As much as I hate to quote NWEA (bringers of MAP to our schools)because it is such a stupid test, they do have the statistics to show that older teachers have a higher student growth rate on their test. The more years of experience the teacher has, the higher student growth rate on MAP. Take a look.
Bird said…
Do you have a link for that?
GreyWatch said…
OK, I know this won't go over well in a budget crisis, but I think ...

People in direct service professions should be encouraged to take sabbaticals on a regular basis (every 8 years maybe) to prevent burnout, to rejuvenate, to take time out to learn, or just rest.

Teachers are about as direct service as you get. Let's keep good teachers going as long as possible! Part-time, job-share, mentoring, etc., should also be encouraged. And yes, by "encourage" I mean fund.
Unknown said…
I am, by most accounts, a pretty good teacher. I've been working for 25 years, and am still getting better. Although I don't have as much energy as I did 15 years ago, I'm wiser at dealing with teenagers, much more efficient and organized, and know a lot more about the subjects I teach and how to teach them.

And I still work my ass off every day. Unlike earlier in my career, I now give myself a 10 minute break during my prep period to walk across the street fro a cup of coffee and to see the sunlight (my classroom has no windows). So, that's on the ground working at 7:30 am, leave at 4 pm or so if I'm lucky, 10 minute break. No lunch break, in case that's not clear. Work on Saturday and Sunday on school-related projects. 60 hours/week on an easy week.

Most young teachers can't or won't work that hard.

As far as $250/month, that's just ludicrous. Nobody would retire early for that.
Patrick said…
While I've been happy with all my daughter's teachers, the best for her have been the ones with the most experience.

The agenda here is not better teaching. It's saving money regardless of the consequences.
Anonymous said…
Various methods of forcing out older (read more expensive) teachers out is already happening in a few districts. I don't really like the idea for various reasons, but it has more integrity than what's already happening.
George E. said…
The state want to save money--get rid of administration on both the city and state level. What exactly do they do other than misapropriate tax-payer funds?
WenD said…
$57K is nothing. I'm looking at that figure, then thinking about the salaries of CEOs who drove our economy into a ditch once, twice, thrice? Nurses make more. The lowliest tester at Microsoft makes as much but has excellent health care. (At least they still did 5 years ago.) It's funny how political races were often run on the centerpiece of values. Palin killed this meme of course, but if you look at values, where is the value in putting your most experienced people on the skids, ostensibly because of health care costs? Since legislators continue to be a privileged class that still receive pensions, I expect better than a lame bill like this one. Nevermind Eynman. The best way to solve a problem is often to create instead of cut, and considering the state of Spokane schools, she'd embarrassing herself instead she starts by looking at her own backyard.
Anonymous said…
My daughter's kindergarten teacher had been teaching for 30+ years - and we loved, loved, loved her. The other most popular kindergartner teacher also has been teaching for 30 some years and is just amazing. This year, my son has a teacher in her first year - very good (but is learning some things the hard way). David hit the nail on the head "The best teachers are the best teachers."

I think Sen. Brown's legislation is not particularly helpful and may result in some harm. The City of Seattle tried offering early retirement as a budget savings a number of years ago - and found that it was the best people who took the early retirement - and the ones you would wish would take early retirement were the ones that stayed.
peonypower said…
@David- there is an excellent study that was done by the UW on the correlation between teacher training (advanced degrees) and teacher effectiveness.
It shows a strong correlation between training and impact on student performance. In essence the more training you have the better you are at your job. I know that every year I teach and with every class I have taken I have become a better educator.

I am a newish teacher, and like concerned teacher I rely on my more experienced counterparts for mentoring and insight often. Are there older teachers who should retire- sure. Are there younger teachers who should find a new career - sure, and lets use a good, thorough, evaluation system to determine both. One thing I can say for sure is that all of the best educators I know are over 25, many came to teaching as a second career, and all have more than 10 years of experience with a masters degree.

I am tired of hearing that younger teachers are better because they have youth on their side. One of the great benefits of an older teacher (especially with high school students) is you have life experience, and I can say from my own experience that what I did before I started teaching influences my daily teaching practice. Mainly, it is reflected in how I work my butt off because I chose teaching as a second career. I also work my butt off because the logistics of the job simply require more than 40 hours a week. I agree with Greywatch. There need to be ways to prevent burnout for teachers. No job should cost you your health or your family, and I have seen both in the teaching profession.
klh said…
Although the proposed legislation seems to be about offering older teachers the opportunity to retire early in exchange for $250/month to help with health care costs (what a joke!) - I am still amazed that one of our legislators can start a public discussion that has gotten so blatantly discriminatory! Being over age 40 is still a protected class in employment decisions in private industry.

When you're young, you don't make much money because you are paying your dues. When you've paid your dues, then you're too expensive and we want to get rid of you - but we'll make ourselves sound like heros by offering you $250/month to cover an expense that will probably be closer to $1,000/month - especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.

I'd better stop now...or I might end up on my health-care soap box as well.
Josh Hayes said…
It's such a bizarre idea in the first place - can you think of any other profession (aside from maybe professional athlete) where we'd say "younger is better"? Do you want a fresh-faced newly-minted doctor reading your radiology reports? No, you want experience. Do you want a green lawyer handling your suit? Nope, again: experience is good.

Over and over - roofers? Electrician? Plumber? Auto mechanic? - you want experience over youthful enthusiasm. Why on earth do people imagine it's different with teachers?
Chris S. said…
Yep, I want to bash on Lisa Brown, but I won't. At least she is being honest and couching this as a cost-cutting measure rather than "standing for children" as some other organizations do.
David said…
Peonypower, the study you cited

says exactly the opposite of what you claimed. Did you read the study? It most certainly does not state that there is a strong correlation between training and impact on student performance.

When I read it, there were two parts there were relevant to our discussion. First, on page 13, there are two studies cited, one from 1971, one from 1975, one of which finds some "positive effects" from experience over 10 years and the other which found "the effectiveness of teachers increases dramatically in the first few years of teaching, reaching a peak in the third to fifth year of teaching. There is no systematic relationship between experience and performance for teachers with more than five years of experience."

Second, on page 11 of the paper, the paper looks at advanced degrees, saying that "surprisingly little is known about whether teachers holding advanced degrees significantly impact student learning outcomes", summarizing several conflicting studies, and ending with the conclusion that the evidence is only strong that the advanced degrees help if they are in science or math and the teacher is teaching science or math. Elsewhere in the paper, they stay that teachers with 5-20 years experience are the ones that often have advanced degrees.

If you think I misread it, can you cite the page and quote from the paper so I and others can see what you are talking about?

Let me just say that I am not attacking teachers with experience, nor am I saying that many teachers with experience are not excellent and highly dedicated. All I am saying is that I am unaware of studies that show that experience beyond a few years is highly correlated with significant improvements in student outcomes.

If anyone has that data, I would very much like to see it, because teacher pay is highly correlated with seniority, and I think that discourages teachers who would have to endure years of very low pay. I, for example, have a degree in science and would enjoy teaching, but the starting salary ($30-35k) is so low as to be uncompetitive. The salary after 20+ years ($60k) is much closer to competitive with jobs elsewhere. So, I wonder if the way teacher pay currently is so heavily tied to seniority is a big part of our problem and if flattening the pay scale (paying newer teachers more, not paying older teachers less) would help.
SPS Alumna and Mom said…
I think we can all agree that there are excellent, good, bad, and indifferent teachers at all seniority levels. I don't think the point of this legislation is to improve teacher quality per se, but to ease budget strains and create some opportunities for newer teachers to (a)get hired, and (b)have some job stability. We will need these people eventually, after all. I think the bill assumes that there are people working who would rather retire, but who feel they need to wait until Medicare kicks in. Early retirement incentives are not that uncommon, and are not specific to teaching, so I'm not sure it's fair to assume that this bill is related to the seniority vs. performance debate.
BL said…
I'd like to understand the legislature's role in this. It seems like individual school districts would have the freedom to implement early retirement incentives without legislative involvement.
Anonymous said…
I find it notable that the escalation of bashing of experienced teachers has coincided with the escalation of financial budgeting problems. The broader the fiscal deficit the broader the criticism.

Our city and our nation need a scapegoat. Our American popular culture and media have created a target- an "other" on whom we can blame all our class, social and economic problems.

Following this trend the administration of SSD has created quotas of experienced teachers that principals must fire. Principals are being evaluated on the number of teachers they place on probation and ultimately force out. Typically those targeted are female teachers with more than 20 years of experience.

The contract that Seattle Education Association (the teachers' union) agreed to is being "aggressively interpreted" by district administration in order to facilitate the dismissals.

A recent review of teacher "Support Plans" (probation documentation) revealed that senior teachers are being placed on notice for infractions such as dim lighting in classrooms, missing a staff meeting in order to attend a parent conference,lecturing too much or not enough and just about anything else the principal can conjure up out of the stratosphere.

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