A Good Teacher is Hard to Find, a Bad Teacher is Hard to Fire

A recent article by the NY Times (http://s.nyt.com/u/zKS) describes the city's efforts to remove incompetent teachers from the classroom. The article largely portrays the process as unnecessarily and frustratingly slow. The fact that only three teachers have actually been removed for incompetence (different from misconduct) and roughly 13 more have resigned or retires illustrates the city's uphill battle on this front. But while I have certainly seen incompetent teachers and remarked privately that they don't belong in the classroom, I don't entirely sympathize with the Teacher Performance Unit (the ominous sounding entity created by Bloomberg to spearhead removal of bad teachers).

A main reason their job is so difficult is because most of these teachers have tenure (93% of third year teachers received tenure last year according to the article). But another major reason it is so hard to get rid of these incompetent teachers is because schools have to demonstrate they made continued, consistent effort to help incompetent teachers become competent. From personal experience I don't think many schools make a sincere effort on this front, and since removing a bad teacher without evidence of this effort is near impossible, the easiest route for administrators is turning a blind eye. With both issues - tenure and support - the onus is on school administrators. Just as i am accountable for my students they must be accountable for their teachers.

The first (and most important) step then in improving teacher quality isn't firing bad teachers, but providing more support and meaningful professional development opportunities early on. Then and only then, if a teacher fails to improve (within a reasonable amount of time, say 6 months to a year) should a teacher be labeled incompetent and removed from the classroom.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


jonathan said…
But before tenure?

How many beginning teachers get drummed out before tenure? and after receiving zero support?

They have very little protection, and almost any administrative whim can end their career.


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