Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Firing Lousy Teachers

I had a wonderful conversation with a public school teacher yesterday. There was much agreement between us, so I won't reveal her name, lest she be ostracized by her more militant peers.

Of particular interest to me was our discussion on the problem of ineffective teachers. For starters, she acknowledged quite readily that there are some teachers that need to go. But she seemed to defend to some degree the current method to remove lousy teachers, a method created via collective bargaining. To me this should have caused her a bit of cognitive dissonance because on the one hand she recognizes the need to get rid of lousy teachers while on the other hand she defended a process that makes it all but impossible.

My own view is that an education system that is unable to root out lousy teachers isn't really "for the children" and ought to be an embarrassment for teachers serious about educating children.

Of course there is no utopian solution to the problem. That said, there must be a method for firing, not relocating, lousy teachers. That power should be held by an administrator who is in turn held accountable for his/her decisions. It is true that an administrator might wrongly fire a teacher, or worse, do so for nefarious reasons. Again, this should lead to the firing of an unprofessional administrator. And so on up the chain of command.

This task is much harder when the organization is a political one and harder still if the organization is large. Smaller units, say, individual schools, held responsible for results would be a step in the right direction. Of course this takes power away from the teachers union. That is what should happen because it is the teachers union which created a system that makes it all but impossible to fire a lousy teacher. The union too should be held responsible for their lousy results.


Sean Cranley said...

You're mistaken. The system in place for removing teachers and other public employees was instituted NOT by collective bargaining, but rather as a reform to prevent political patronage. It predates collective bargaining for public employees.

That is the practice, once wide spread whereby elected officials would fire existing employees and replace them with their cronies and supporters. Thay is why "cause" is required to dismiss public employees rather than an official's whim.

Oh and the bad teacher thing? Intentionally over blown to the point of being a myth. I can count on one hand the number "bad" teachers I have encountered through my own education and that of my kids. And some of those I've been told other people thought were good. Depends on the kid's personality and learning style I suppose. Any the vast majority of teachers I've encountered are both good and dedicated.

Denis Navratil said...

Sean, teachers contracts are renegotiated every few years or so. All the rules for dismissing teachers are among the myriad of things to be negotiated. And if I am mistaken about that, I am certainly correct in stating that the teachers union is not at the forefront of any effort to make it easier to fire a lousy teacher. Rather, the teachers union is the biggest obstacle in that regard.

I hadn't thought of the political patronage problem, though it does suggest that schools should be less political in their structure.

And the bad teacher thing is far from a myth. It is likely the main reason public school teachers send their own children to private schools at a greater rate than the general public.

Sean Cranley said...

The bad teacher thing is not a myth, it's just WAY over blown by your minders for political purposes, just like your statement above about public teachers sending their kids to private schools. Some do, surely. But most don't.

And this distortion of reality is just one more example of the kind of low tactics that you need to resort to on a regular basis to support your ideology. Because it CAN'T stand it's own merits.

Anonymous said...

"It is likely the main reason public school teachers send their own children to private schools at a greater rate than the general public."

Sean, Denis' statement would appear to be accurate and either you're reading it wrong, or have no fact-based rebuttal so reverting back to the standard liberal reply of "distortion and low tactics."

Granted, some of this information is based on 2000 census figures, will be interesting to see what 2010 figures show, but everything seems to point to public school teachers sending their kids to private schools at at least twice the rate of the general public, rendering Denis' statement completely accurate.

If you have contrary data, please bring it forward.

Sean Cranley said...

Nice slanted sources Ano! The Rightwing Religious Whacko Reverend Sun Young Moon's Washington Times?! Liberties Flame Blog, citing the same Moonie Paper article!?! Council for American Private Education?

For starters I didn't see the census cited anywhere, but maybe I missed it.

Secondly, the data from the first two sources is all drawn from major urban areas where, due to poverty and associated ills there are great concentrations of struggling students. The data was not taken from the country as a whole. Selective survey sampling, tisk tisk.

Thirdly, teachers are compared to the general population in these cities, you know, lots of poor people. It would be more valid to compare teachers with other college educated professionals. So the whole analysis is grossly slanted and that's what I found in just my first quick glance.

And finally, perhaps I missed it, but I didn't see anything specifically pertinent to the topic in the CAPE info.

Perhaps I'll delve more deeply later. for now, have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Sean - still waiting for some substantive data from you other than flimsy rationalizations and dismissals of data because you don't care for the source.

Yes, let's not consider large urban cities in the data. Let's see, did I just fall off the turnip truck, ahh, no!

Sean Cranley said...

Dear Ano, with quite some difficulty I was able to find and download the actual publication by the Con Thomas B. Fordham Institute. It was a difficult read and rather opaque in it's methodology. However, it did include the following nugget:

"What might be more interesting for the future, then, is to uncover the number of teachers who live in suburban enclaves, capitalizing on geography as a way to find quality schools."

First of all this says that the survey was scewed because they did not include all teachers but only urban in their study.

Secondly it says that "suburban enclaves" as they put it, have "quality schools" refering of course to the public schools.

But once again, it isn't the schools that are different, it is the students who are not faced with concentrated poverty and the wide variety of social ills that are the result of that poverty.

So what are we to conclude? That educated, professionals (teachers in this case) care about education and are better able economically than the general urban public to put their kids in schools where they are less exposed to the children of poverty and the resultant struggles in the schools that they attend.

And finally, the last conclusion we must make is that one takes at face the pronunciations of Con sources like the Moonie Paper (Wash Times) and their false use of terms like "nation wide" at ones own peril. Lest one unwittingly spread the lies which are brought out by people who actually look past the trees into the forest, leading to the undermining of ones credibility and the underpinnings of ones "causes".