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Walking the Talk on the Right Way to Remove the Wrong Staff

Vaishali Honawar 's November 29 story in edweek.org on the New York City public schools lifted my heart. This is the way to remove teachers - or any other school district employee who can't or won't perform. (See my scenario 4 for DC schools here.)

The Teacher Performance Unit, made up of five lawyers and headed by a former prosecutor, will help principals prepare cases to fire tenured teachers who fail repeatedly to raise student test scores and are also found lacking during principals’ observations.... The plan also includes peer-intervention and other help for struggling teachers. Only if a teacher continues to fail to show improvement despite those interventions will the process for removing a teacher begin, district officials say.

Due process is central to America values, and following the rules demonstrates leaderships' commitment to principle rather than people. Public employment is an entitlement under the law for very sound historical reasons, but it carries serious responsibilities. Incompetents need to be removed. Principals and supervisors have too much on their plate to do it alone - districts need units with specific responsibility, power and accountability to perform the function.

I'm a graduate of George Washington University Law School licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia, and would gladly put my money where my mouth has been on this point if DC were to follow New York's example. I doubt the Mayor or Chancellor would welcome this pugnacious critic. Still, if asked, I would gladly serve. It's that important to me that government do things right.

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