Jonathan Alter of Newsweek tends to win little support in this forum for his political analysis, but he has made some valuable observations about education reform.

In his latest column, we find some additional nuggets of wisdom:

Seniority is the two-headed monster of education?it?s expensive and
harmful. Like master?s degrees for teachers and smaller class sizes,
seniority pay, [Bill] Gates says, has ?little correlation to student
achievement.? After exhaustive study, the Gates Foundation and other
experts have learned that the only in-school factor that fully
correlates is quality teaching, which seniority hardly guarantees. It?s a
moral issue. Who can defend a system where top teachers are laid off in
a budget crunch for no other reason than that they?re young?

In most states, pay and promotion of teachers are
connected 100 percent to seniority. This is contrary to everything the
world?s second-richest man believes about business: ?Is there any other
part of the economy where someone says, ?Hey, how long have you been
mowing lawns? ? I want to pay you more for that reason alone.? ? Gates
favors a system where pay and promotion are determined not just by
improvement in student test scores (an idea savaged by teachers? unions)
but by peer surveys, student feedback (surprisingly predictive of
success in the classroom), video reviews, and evaluation by superiors.
In this approach, seniority could be a factor, but not the only factor.