This will keep me off the blog list of NEA Today forever....
...but I'm going to do it anyway. It is time to speak out.
Incompetent teachers should be fired. No ifs, ands, or buts.
I was reading the debate about proposition 74 in California, which comes up for a vote soon. Prop 74 would, among other things, increase the amount of time necessary to gain tenure as a public school teacher to five years from the current two years. But increasing the lagtime for tenure is only one tiny piece of the puzzle. Unspoken is the fact that those teachers were hired by someone, observed by someone (supposedly), and rehired by someone. Bad teachers do not pop out of nowhere. I don't see laws addressing these facts. Instead, I see yet another attempt to demonize teachers, while leaving untouched the larger issue of making teaching an honored and valued profession.
I'll say it again: incompetent teachers should be fired. However, I hope people understand that simply raising the years until teachers get tenure will hardly end incompetent teachers in the classroom.
First of all, the hiring process needs never to be based on nepotism and cronyism. I remember well sitting in a human resources office in a chichi district, listening to the director talk about how he was going to hire the son of so-and-so for this spot-- then he tried to hire me as a $12K a year assistant so that I could hold the hand of Junior. One of the most incompetent teachers I know was hired because he was a graduate of the high school at which I taught. And he's still teaching.
Second, teachers need to be evaluated by someone who knows what to look for in establishing judgments of competence and incompetence. This means that administrators should get out of their offices and be cognizant of what is going on in the classrooms. If they are too busy to do this-- which would seem the most important job of all-- then work should be reassigned so that administrators can do this. This should be their primary job, not number-crunching or stating the obvious ("There's an achievement gap!"). If administrators did this, it wouldn't matter how long it took to get tenure-- because they would know what's going on.
If there is a problem, they need to provide feedback and guidance to give the teach a chance to improve. They need to have the knowledge and experience to be able to provide this feedback and guidance. They need to amass documentation to use in getting rid of the deadwood. I knew an AP who falsified observations for 4 years-- she hadn't been in a classroom to observe since Clinton's first term. And it took the other administrators 6 years to figure this out. Might I point out that that is more than the amount of time it would take to get tenure under Proposition 74?
But you don't hear about passing laws forbidding these types of practices-- because it doesn't make teachers look bad, it makes administrators look bad. It doesn't allow the continued myth that there are a multitude of rotten teachers in our schools.
If a teacher is fired, they should not be given a good recommendation to go quietly just to make things nicey-nicey legally-- that just passes on the problem to some other school district, and betrays our sacred trust. And as Redhog says in his post of October 28, teaching IS a sacred trust.
We teachers have our part to play in this. We must not remain quiet when we see a problem. We must be able to trust that if we report a problem, it will be acted upon. School districts and teachers must demonstrate the will to get rid of bad teachers-- we know who they are. There's not a lot of them, but there are some. We need to understand that we teachers have an investment in this-- after all, the guy who reads the paper every day instead of teaching may well be the administrator of tomorrow.