On Monday, May 7, the TESD Finance Committee will meet to decide on whether to demote T/E’s most experienced teachers for economic reasons. The Board believes that such action will be an effective cost-saving measure.
However, any minimal and short-term economic benefits produced will be offset by greater and more serious long-term costs. If the Board decides to follow through on teacher demotions, we ask—what is the true price? How will these demotions affect our students, our schools, and the T/E community?
Teachers are the most significant in-school factor affecting student achievement. Furthermore, research has consistently identified several characteristics of an effective teacher. Effective teachers possess strong content background in subject, advanced studies in area of teaching, more years in the classroom, and higher overall cognitive abilities. These teachers produce measurable and substantial positive outcomes for students, including higher future salaries.
Our schools’ most experienced and highly educated teachers undoubtedly possess each of these characteristics. Among those likely considered for demotion include teachers with doctoral and masters degrees and 10+ years of classroom experience. These teachers are AP certified, have published articles in academic and professional journals and even written their own books.They are experts in their fields and bring that expertise everyday to our children.
These teachers have gone above and beyond to help our students achieve, by staying after school to work with students, by sponsoring extra-curricular activities, and by pursuing coursework that strengthens their teaching abilities. When students themselves spoke out at the April 23 Board Meeting, they expressed to the Board how such teachers had not only taught their subject, but also how their teachers had guided and mentored them over the years.
Moreover, an important part of T/E’s mission is to “inspire a passion for learning” and “the pursuit of excellence.” How can T/E continue to fulfill this mission without its most passionate and excellent teachers? How can we encourage our students to go to college and pursue advanced studies when the District demotes the teachers who have done just that? What kind of message does it send to our students about the value of their education when the District demotes its best teachers?
Clearly, demoting our best and brightest teachers is not in our students’ best interests.
In practical terms, teachers who are demoted would need to seek employment elsewhere. The loss of these teachers and their expertise cannot be understated. In addition to the obvious negative impact on students, teacher demotion would also have the following consequences:
- Inferior academic and educational program. Because of their knowledge and experience, these teachers regularly develop curricula for the District and serve as leaders and mentors among the faculty. Teacher mentors are integral to creating supportive and successful work environments. These teachers possess content knowledge and classroom experience that are not easily replaced. Research has shown that each additional year of teaching has a direct positive impact on student achievement. If teachers are demoted our schools, faculty, and students would lose their valuable expertise.
- Difficulties in teacher retention and recruitment. Over the last three years, the District has reduced teaching staff by nearly 10%. As a result, teachers are responsible for more classes and more students. At the same time, teachers’ planning and prep time has been diminished. Teachers have fewer opportunities to collaborate, even as evidence has shown that teacher collaboration is one of the features of highly effective schools.
In short, T/E teachers have continued to do excellent work despite these increased demands. However, the Board’s decision to demote its most experienced teachers would dramatically affect teacher morale and cause worry among remaining faculty members. The demotion of these teachers sends a powerful message to remaining faculty about their value. As the economy continues to recover, holding onto T/E’s best teachers—and attracting highly qualified new teachers—will become increasingly difficult.
- Potential risk to the academic reputation of T/E schools. The excellent quality of T/E schools is regularly cited as one of the reasons families move into the community. Studies have shown that communities with higher quality schools also have higher home values and that the benefits are even greater for those communities with prestigious schools, like T/E.
What happens when potential home buyers discover that T/E demoted the teachers who have helped to build the T/E academic program? What happens when they discover that teachers with doctoral degrees have been replaced with less-experienced, part-time staff? T/E is currently the only district in the Main Line area considering teacher demotion as a cost-effective strategy. Yet such action would also cost the district its reputation.
Given the potentially devastating effects, we urge the Board’s Finance Committee to table the subject of teacher demotion. In the short-term, the Board has the necessary resources to meet its budget deficit without endangering the excellent academic programs and reputation of our schools. In the long-term, we urge the board to come back to the negotiating table and work with us to find sustainable solutions that protect the integrity of our schools.
Please make your voice heard on this crucial matter at the Finance Committee meeting on Monday, May 7th. Please help others to stay informed by forwarding this message to your neighbors.
The meeting is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
T/E School District Administration Offices
West Valley Business Center
940 West Valley Road
Suite 1700, Wayne, PA
Meeting Room 200