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Survivor, witch hunts, and the quest for teacher quality

| 5 Comments

We’ve been discussing teacher quality for decades. Everyone is rightfully concerned about making sure that good teachers are in front of students. Thus the teacher quality provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, the calls for performance or merit pay, the concerns about alternative licensure, the quests for better teacher evaluation systems, the gnashing of teeth over ‘obstructionist unions that get in the way of firing bad teachers,’ and so on…

For the purposes of discussion, here’s a modest proposal:

  1. Do our damnedest to create a positive working climate for teachers: ongoing administrative and community support, decent resources, professional development that’s actually useful, etc. Sometimes easier said than done, but nonetheless…
  2. In nearly every school there usually are a handful of teachers who are just going through the motions (or worse). Students know who they are. Other teachers know who they are. Administrators know who they are. Parents know who they are (that’s why they work so hard to get their kid some other teacher instead).
  3. Every year fire the worst teacher in the school. If you don’t have a robust teacher evaluation system (or if you’re worried about administrator bias), do it like they do on Survivor: everyone gets a vote and the one with the most votes leaves the island. Administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents – everyone involved with the school gets a vote. Dismissal by consensus. The more that are involved, (hopefully) the less likelihood of a witch hunt. If necessary, modify the master contract to make this happen.

From Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric:

"You should take the top 20 percent of your employees and make them feel loved," Welch advised. "Take the middle 70 percent and tell them what they need to do to get into the top 20 percent." Managing out the bottom 10 percent of performers is necessary not only for the organization's continued success but also for the sake of employees affected by the rigorous appraisal system. "People need to know where they stand," Welch said. "Failing to differentiate among employees – and holding on to bottom-tier performers – is actually the cruelest form of management there is."

Thoughts?

Scott McLeod
Dangerously Irrelevant

5 Comments

Complacency...the teacher's union tenure system affords too much complacency in the profession. There needs to be a system/process which places teachers at several different accomplishment levels instead of just one (tenured). Perhaps similiar to the university system...assistant professor, associate professor, professor, etc. Further, the idea of one stake-holder/one vote may have merit. I would like three votes for the first year:)

Re: #3...Why leave it at teachers? The principal should have their own name on the "who should get fired?" list. Maybe the Superintendent, also? Why stop there? How about adding Arne Duncan to the list?
I guess I don't know you, your views, and your writing style well enough to know where you wanted to go with your post. It was confused and confusing.

All kidding aside, there are some small private schools (Sudbury, and some similar ones) where staff members have to be voted back. Basically, "Should Mr. McCloud be back next year?". Students, and staff each get one vote. Not sure if parents get to vote.

Given the focus policy makers have had on the issue of education for so long, it seems to this teacher that maybe they, and their administrator-implementers, should be the ones on the chopping block. We teachers just do what we're told!

Accountability starts at the top!

We have a different approach. Collegial. Non-adversarial. We don't give up on kids and we don't give up on each other.

As a charter principal, one of my highest priorities is helping every teacher be successful. As they go... so goes student achievement. If I can't train, coach, support and advocate for the continuous improvement of every teacher and every employee-- I should resign. I WILL resign.

The adversarial model is just one more traditional structure that has adversely impacted our students. We don't have a union. We don't technically evaluate our teachers. And no one person has all the right answers so it is totally a collaborative effort in terms of establishing policies, selecting teaching texts and material and strategies, spending school resources, etc. In other words... we trust each other to make the right decisions for our students. In that climate, mutual support contributes to a climate of continuous improvement.

Some are cynical about an approach like this because it redistributes the "power" of the administrator. In our school, "power" is relative. The more results you get, the more effective you are as an educator... the more "power" you have.

Comments are now closed for this post.

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Recent Comments

  • Kevin W. Riley: We have a different approach. Collegial. Non-adversarial. We don't give read more
  • tft: Given the focus policy makers have had on the issue read more
  • Joe Educator: All kidding aside, there are some small private schools (Sudbury, read more
  • Joe Educator: Re: #3...Why leave it at teachers? The principal should have read more
  • Todd Beach: Complacency...the teacher's union tenure system affords too much complacency in read more

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