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Ousting Ineffective Teachers

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Last week, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan for removing unsatisfactory teachers from the city's classrooms. His proposal would involve principals and education consultants working with lawyers to oust ineffective, tenured teachers. Proponents applaud the plan for simplifying the firing process; critics, including UFT president Randi Weingarten, call the concept a "teacher gotcha unit."

How big a problem are ineffective teachers in schools? How can school systems decrease the numbers of such educators? What do you think of New York's planned approach?

17 Comments

The fact is that there are an over-abundance of ineffective teachers and administrators in public education. The problem with the outsting approach is that there is also a LOT of dirty politics within the public school system. One of the main goals, believe it or not, it to MAINTAIN status quo. In order to "survive," one must go with the flow, even though/if that flow goes against what is in the best interest of the students. "Leave no child behind," right! My experiences have awed me at how many are actually thrown through the cracks, with administrative "leadership!" So, how does the Mayor plan to sift through the ugly politics and truly get rid of the real ineffective ones destroying our public system?

Who will oust the ineffective, inexperienced and vindictive principals who are given absolute power? Principals and Bloomberg are not out to get rid of ineffective teachers; they are out to get rid of experienced EXPENSIVE teachers. It's all about money. As ironic as it may seem, many teachers are removed for doing their job well; it's just that the higher-ups don't want to hear the truth. The truth; Children are coming to school unprepared and unwilling to work, and parents are absent from the process. But, teachers are encouraged to pass them along so the numbers look good. Bloomberg is getting rid of teachers who, for the most part, have altruistic reasons for being teachers. They have dignity in their years of service. Unfortunately, that is not what is valued. Teachers are not the enemy. They are the ones who are truly advocating for their students.

The issue is even bigger than ineffective teachers. The issue must go to the institutions of higher education. This group of professionals are not preparing new teachers to deliver the high quality instruction required today, to a very diverse group of students. The needs children bring to the classroom today are different and more complex than previous groups. Better prepared teachers will support better instruction. Definitely our public schools need to be cleared of both ineffective administrators and teachers.

It seems to me that the question of ejecting ineffective teachers is one mired in potential chaos. If we use data, such as test scores, to measure an educators' worth then we fall into the trap of encouraging teachers to teach to the test. Any system that is devised to measure accountability for teachers' effectiveness has to have in place a long-term support subsystem to help those educators maintain their effectiveness. I thought that the previous points illustrating that money drives this ousting ineffective teachers agenda were stated much better than any I might make. I would add, however, that we need an accountability system which ousts POLITICIANS if they are shown to be ineffective. Afterall, its the legislators who decide when, where and how our schools see their funding.

As in all industries, there is a bell-curve of competence among teachers. There are a few super-stars at one end, most of us doing good work in the middle, and a few straggling duds at the other end. So, what happens when we attempt to lop off the duds? That's right, the bell shape just returns. So, how do we improve teacher performance across this spectrum? One immediate step is to encourage (and demand) supportive collaboration among staff, so that the curriculum a student experiences becomes less dependent upon a particular teacher and more balanced among all classrooms. Models of collaboration should intend to raise the performance of all teachers on staff. Then we can go after the few teachers who are really misplaced and need to get out of the profession.

As in all industries, there is a bell-curve of competence among teachers. There are a few super-stars at one end, most of us doing good work in the middle, and a few straggling duds at the other end. So, what happens when we attempt to lop off the duds? That's right, the bell shape just returns. So, how do we improve teacher performance across this spectrum? One immediate step is to encourage (and demand) supportive collaboration among staff, so that the curriculum a student experiences becomes less dependent upon a particular teacher and more balanced among all classrooms. Models of collaboration should intend to raise the performance of all teachers on staff. Then we can go after the few teachers who are really misplaced and need to get out of the profession.

I really believe that there are many teachers that when they are finished being observed by administrators they don't perform as they would if they had somebody watching over them. Why is it that only the "newbies" are observed for 4-5 years and the rest are not held accountable for their instructional practices? In the school I was at, there are many teachers that would be removed according to this plan in NY. I would have to say that collaboration was not effective in our school with the tenure teachers because they would say they were doing what we all said we would do, but then they continued doing what they were used to...I honestly believe that ALL teachers need to be held accountable for their instructional practices and if they are slipping provide opportunity for them to improve and if they choose not to, then let them go because there are many other professional teachers willing and able to take their place!

"Ousting ineffective teachers?" School leadership like errant and unengaged parents are never the issue. Why not? Leadership failings in writing and or signing erroneous/false evaluations allow for tenure to take place among the few ineffective teachers (given the numerical demographics nationally). The other question that comes to mind is the so-called "august" body of those who will have the job of ousting. I am sure they are a combination of those who have never served in the classroom and if so were those who served limited time (three years or less) and would fit the current profile of an ineffective teacher. Administrative positions per my observation are often times political in nature. That coupled with local, state, or national mandate equals a witch hunt or better stated - a scapegoat! Least paid; least respected. Teachers.

In closing, these comments are from a retired career soldier with 22 and one-half years service(Command Sergeant Major; two combat tours) and two graduate degrees. I came into teacher via the Department of Defense's Troops To Teacher program. Start eliminating ineffective leadership in both school district support positions and schools.

Why stop with teachers? How about ineffective police officers, doctors, political officials, lawyers? They are all public servants.

I was a police officer before becoming a teacher. I wasn't judged by how much crime was on my beat. Society knows there is a crime problem that isn't easily fixed. Education executives know there is a problem in society among families, the poor, the unmotivated, the lazy, the environment that adds to the problem of why "Johnny can't read, and doesn't care about reading because momma comes home drunk and daddy's in jail".

It goes far beyond the effectiveness of teachers. Latch key kids, violent neighborhoods, video games and television, parents at war with each other and in the Middle East can not be discounted as part of a child's life. They are not robots to have knowledge uploaded into their brains. They can not divorce themselves from their environment and decide that filling in bubbles on a scantron will change their lives.

When corporations have state of the art buildings and equipment and schools have no air conditioning and run down buildings it is obvious that the concern expressed about education and children is lip service. No white collar workers would tolerate working in the physical environment that teachers and students walk into daily.

If they cared they might pay more attention to the causes rooted in society. They might pay more to attract quality teachers as the UC system does to attract and keep professors and chancellors.

This constant scapegoating of teachers is ridiculous. No wonder 50% leave the profession within the first 5 years.

When will parents be held accountable for getting their children to school, feeding them breakfast, helping them with homework, supporting the teachers, and nurturing their own children?

When I read this I was so upset because this is a scam to get rid of teachers who are highly qualified under NCLB that they must pay the salary. Its' funny our country will pay athletes but not teachers. I think the teachers and principals should start working now to remove him from office. Teachers need to start looking for jobs in another state. He is destroying their school system.

I, too, am extremely concerned with our oppressive educational system that often bullies out the best teachers. My personal experiences in education, as well as what I've repeatedly witnessed, have taught me it is a myth that it is difficult to "get rid of" supposedly incompetent teachers. To the contrary, I find that it is all too easy (and all too common) to get rid of the best teachers.
Research on systemic oppression, a.k.a. the cycle of abuse and/or bullying, has consistently demonstrated that power imbalances in dysfunctional systems can result in oppression. Research has also revealed that abusers tend to be competent in their professions, and that targets, too, tend to not only be competent, but to be selected precisely because of their competence (see, for example, Olweus, Gary and Ruth Namie, and Tim Fields). We need to take these findings into account when we blanketly assume that those who are not in the system deserve being ousted due to incompetence. The research tells us the opposite is likely to be true.

As a principal, I can assure you that I have done everything I can for every teacher that needs to be released before they are recommended for release. The problem in SD is that there are not enough teachers to get rid of the ineffective old farts. The key to being a good teacher comes in developing a strong work ethic. I vehemently believe that tenure is regressing education. If teachers knew that every year their job was at stake like most other occupations, they might be more apt to push themselves to continually change. I cannot tell you how many educators I have experienced in my career that were afraid to change their teaching strategies simply because they were afraid it was "the next new thing". Of course it is - its education, and thats how we adapt to our ever-changing world. Each year we should be able to replace any teacher and the boards of education of our districts should be the bodies that oversee the process.

FYI - I have 24 years of service to the military (guards) and understand exactly what it takes to improve people and - constant pressure and scrutiny of teachers and administrators is the only solution.

Both the tone and content of Mr. Schneider's post beautifully illustrate my concerns about power imbalance in punishment based systems. Hopefully I have missed a satirical intent.

That's crazy. They need to use the money to improve the system. Firstly, check their inefficient organization, then when they clean up their act, they will be able to clean up others. They need to remember that when they point one finger the others are pointing back to them.

I am not really fond of the whole "ousting bad teachers" tone. It just sets up a scapegoat mentality without really changing the system that promotes or protects wide variances in competence. While I won't pretend that employers outside of education universally use the best management strategies, there is a body of knowledge about the things that work well in evaluation and development of competency in a workforce.

Getting there in education may mean allowing some folks into administration who have management experience elsewhere. Moving from the classroom into a supervisory position, even with an adequate degree program, tends to produce supervisors who either regard teachers as peers (and give only cursory evaluation), or treat them like students (do as I say because I am the authority here).

New teachers should be INTENSELY supported and evaluated with ongoing learning goals and agreed upon development strategies. As teachers grow in experience (beyond the first five years), they should be expected to grow in their ability to contribute to the learning community and take on more responsible roles. Having in place a process that regularly evaluates and sets ongoing goals and expectations does two things. One, it supports the growth of teachers. Two, it provides clarity when a parting is inevitable. A wise employee reads the writing and seeks a more suitable position before the inevitible. For the unwise, the process provides a history that supports administrative choice.

Can this be manipulated or gotten around by those with evil intent--probably. But for the most part it would be an improvement.

I'm heartened to read that the respondents to this blog are people who care deeply about public education. Good for them in responding so eloquently to this latest sham. If their opinions signify anything, it is a consensus that eliminating so-called "unsatisfactory teachers" is just another gimmick applied by politicians and administrators to failing schools. Once again, the bureaucrats in charge are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

In a dysfunctional school even the best teacher can appear mediocre and ineffectual, especially when the culture of that school focuses primarily on crowd control and baby sitting students, punctuated every so often by test preparation and testing. If a teacher's creative approaches to incorporating rigor and relevance aren't valued by administrators, parents and students, that teacher can quickly be branded as not fitting into the culture. Forcing a competent teacher out of such an environment is very easy and very common.

I also agree with Joanne's POV that veteran teachers who are more expensive will be targeted first. They will even be set up to fail. I have witnessed this firsthand, when seasoned teachers were given more behaviorally challenged students than their less experienced peers. Their class enrollments also exceeded 30 students per section, and they were given duties such as in-school suspension and cafeteria monitoring five days a week.

Bloomberg should make his approach fair and effective: he shouldn't just focus on the teacher "problem" -- he should also root out the administrative deadwood. There are plenty of presiding placeholders cluttering up public education with mindless edicts, memos, powerpoint presentations and report binders. Let's clean up that mess first.

Any principal in their right mind would never oust a good teacher. Excuse the cliche,' but it would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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