Pitting old, young distracts us from schools’ real needs

Lawrence Harmon (“Talent, not time, marks a teacher,” Op-ed, June 9) raises the specter of aging, poorly performing teachers keeping jobs from talented young enthusiasts, arguing that the unions are selfish to want to retain seniority. In fact, seniority helps our students.

First, the prospect of job security itself attracts talented, well-educated people to the profession, despite relatively low initial wages and stressful work. Second, after years of practice, people usually become better at what they do, not worse. I constantly learned how to become better in my 30 years of experience. Third, the alternative — to allow administrators to decide whom to fire — is dangerous. Teacher evaluations themselves are faulty, and there is a real financial incentive for administrators to retain lower-paid, younger workers over older teachers with higher salaries and benefits.

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