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Firings Happen

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D.C. teacher Mr. Potter reports that several teachers at his school recently received termination notices (as part of an apparent year-end district purge). While he says he questions some of the decisions, he suggests that teachers in general are too quick to proclaim rank injustice and civic tragedy at the news of teacher firings:

Sometimes people get fired. Sometimes, your boss doesn't think you're doing a good job, and so you lose it. Sometimes this happens. Usually, the person deserves it. Sometimes, he/she maybe doesn't deserve to be fired, but still wasn't performing very well. Rarely is the person doing a really great job. Now, if someone is fired who really is doing their job well, and was fired for political or arbitrary reasons, then I'm glad we have a union to fight it. But honestly, if the person in question just wasn't performing well -- was showing up late and giving the kids busy work and not properly managing the class -- then I guess I don't feel that bad. They should have been using all that free time to update their resumees. Heartless? Maybe. But we don't have an absolute right to a job.

Is he right? What's your experience?

9 Comments

If they deserve to be fired, then why are they surprised when it happens. Why does the district cop out and just refuse to renew a contract. Sounds like the principal needs to go with them for not documenting and counseling all year through. Heaven forbid, someone might actually take the counseling and training to heart and improve their skills and performance levels.
How much taxpayer money is wasted on the revolving door process? How much team coherence and cooperative professional learning communities can be built on that same revolving door?

Yes, sometimes people are fired for arbitrary or political reasons. Political reasons are wrong, but arbitrary reasons are not necessarily wrong.

But let's face it, in a school district with declining enrollment, bloated budgets and poor results, maybe having teachers fear for their jobs might just be a good thing. If people are fired for not doing a good job (assuming doing a good job is fairly defined), then it would behoove those who survived the firing to improve their performance.

How about firing all the teachers? Sound extreme? Unprecedented? Happened to Lucerne Valley teachers in So. Ca. New superintendent gave RIF notices to everyone except himself and classified. Yes, some teachers don't deserve to keep their jobs due to seniority, and there needs to be a more equitable way to weed out the "do nothings, or too little," but firing all?

I have an interesting story about firings. My entire department at a private school was fired at the end of this school year. This is after I received a positive observation. My supervisor refused to give any of us a reason other than we don't "fit in" with his new vision for our department. He is a new supervisor, and the assistant head of school explained that some managers prefer to bring in their own people rather than work with existing staff.
Another teacher, in a different department, was also fired for reasons that can only be personal since she is one of the most competent teachers I have ever worked with. The head of the school's daughter got her position. So, sometimes, even in the private sphere, firings are definitely undeserved!

I feel that Teachers if doing a good job should not be fired. We as teachers work very hard and have to deal with difficult students as well as difficult Adminstrators. Teachers are a rare bread of individuals that want to make a difference in a child's life. I feel their has to be a very good reason why a teacher gets terminated.

Teachers are not always fired or terminated for good reason. Moreover, these mass terminations that Chancellor Rhee is implementing in the DCPS says more about her own incompetence and that of DCPS administrators than it does about the supposed incompetence of those she chose to terminate. After all, oftentimes, when an administration doesn't have the talent, intelligence, or creativity to improve a given situation (e.g. large high schools in New York City), their only solution is to bring closure to that situation. Thus, the mass termination of 250 teachers in the DCPS.
I would also like to comment about Mr. Potter's views on veteran teachers, as it relates to the mass termination of DCPS teachers: I find that his remarks are both excessively harsh and cruel. Clearly, Mr. Potter hasn't been a teacher for long because his take on veteran teachers having a sense of entitlement in regards to their jobs is totally false and shows that he, like many of the Education Reformers/Deformers (e.g. Duncan, klein, Rhee,and others), believes that there is little good in senior teachers. What unfortunate thinking !

In short, I agree that teachers that are not up to the task should be removed from the classroom, but I strongly disagree with summary dismissal or "politically expedient" solutions. Teaching is case-specific and no two teachers or classroom environments or students sets can be fairly compared. Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) is designed to assist teachers in redefining their practice if they have failed to stay up to date with research-based strategies and demographic needs. Too often PAR is set aside because it has an intimidating nature and requires substantial effort. More importantly, I have seen a great many "new" teachers given tenure after only 3 years without so much as a tactical review of their practices. In my mind, it is not reasonable to extend the probation period, thereby ushering in an entire generation of "temporary teachers", but some intermediate stage should be put firmly in place that offers some protections from summary dismissal and mandates measurable improvements in teacher achievement. Importantly, this measure of teacher achievement needs to be insulated from mandatory district or site-based curriculum policy which forces the teacher to follow a particular pacing strategy that may not be efficacious their students.

What have these educators contributed to their school?
Sure the 3 year probationary period is an acceptable evaulation of on-the-job skills, but after those three years what are we saying to those teachers? "Good job, you've showed me how to put together a lesson plan and teach it. Go ahead, sit back and relax." Personally, I believe apathy is synonomous with ignorance.

This is a discussion that I coworker and I were just having. It is not uncommon for teachers at our school to be forced to resign (aka fired nicely); however, the reason is seldom "poor performance". In my opinion, there are probably at least 10 out of 75 teachers in our high school that should be let go because of their lack of interest in teaching students. I believe if they are given negative ratings and do not show an effort to improve then they should be let go. Unfortunately there are teachers that depreciate over the years rather than improve.

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