Let's Get Rid Of Bad Teachers

How? The devil is in the details. Do you have a way to find and fire bad teachers? Tell us in the comments.


This column is written by High School English teacher Jerry Heverly.

            There is one statement about education that, from my experience, is almost universally endorsed by people of every persuasion.

            We ought to get rid of the bad teachers.

            At least in this one case teachers can’t fault the public for complaining about something the average citizen knows little about.

            Somewhere in our lives most of us have had someone we would identify as a bad teacher. Therefore we all know such individuals exist. We’ve met them. We’ve personally suffered from their faults. We can, if pressed, give real life examples.

            If you can’t remember your own bad teachers you certainly have read about them. I see the stories in newspapers just about every week.

            They sit in class and read the newspaper, oblivious to the children in their care.

            They come to work at 8 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m.

            They can’t spell better then your average fourteen year old. They can’t do the math problems at the end of the chapter.

            They’re too young or too old to manage 30+ children.

            They discriminate between kids based on the race of the child.

            They hurl insults at students, demeaning those who most need encouragement.

            I’m sure you can add to my list.

            This widespread frustration about bad teachers accounts, I think, for the most notable development of the soon-to-be-departed 2012. All over the nation states and school districts are charting a new path toward teacher evaluation.

            The new buzzword is “value-added”.  Florida just enacted a system. Pennsylvania and South Carolina are on board as is Tennessee and a host of other places.

            To gain exemption from the odious provisions of No Child Left Behind a state must promise to use numbers to evaluate teachers; Governor Brown’s objection to this stipulation has prevented California from escaping NCLB.

            The Los Angeles Times developed their own system, which they explain here: http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/.

            You want to fire bad teachers. I get that.

            The logical way to do that would be to empower the school’s principal. You elect the school board; the school board hires the principal; the principal should be able to hire people to her liking. It’s the only logical way you can hold her accountable for the school’s success or failure.

            Union contracts and state statutes won’t abide this way of doing things.

            Therefore you look for another way to get your nose in the door. Which has led to our present reform, evaluating teachers by test scores.

            I can’t believe that any of you, readers, think this is a sensible way to rid yourself of bad teachers.

            I don’t think I even need to list the many ways that a numerical system will lead us to the proverbial hell via the road of good intentions.

            Good teachers will lose their jobs because they teach in poor districts, thus giving one more incentive for smart people to work in the rich suburbs.

            Bad teachers will flock to jobs in physical education, art and music where test scores aren’t feasible.

            Administrators will put the best teachers in honors and AP classes to protect them from poor test scores; thus the worst teachers will teach the neediest kids.

            Everyone will teach to the test. I mean really teach to the test.

            You know the numbers will often lie. The victims of the system will be all the wrong folks; the people you want to get rid of will survive.

            I’d love to end this year with my suggestions for giving you the thing you want, a system for removing bad teachers from your schools.

            But I have no such solutions. All I think I know is that the way we are headed is folly.

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 Read other columns from the Entirely Secondary archive. The tag line is inspired by education blogger Joe Bower who says that when his students do an experiment, learning is the priority. Getting the correct answer is entirely secondary.

Jason Berberian December 27, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Jessica thank you for the compliment. My point still is that we really don't have tenure. We do have reviews. I have a principal that comes in my room on a regular basis. Now that is not true of all principals. Administrators should be in our rooms regularly. They should know what is happening and then discussing that in our reviews. Believe me I have had numerous conversations with my principal about how can we best reach our students and help all achieve. If a principal is saying their hands are tied about "tenure", then they are not telling the whole story. They probably haven't done all they need to do to observe and review their "bad teacher".
Michael Moore December 28, 2012 at 01:07 AM
The school board and administrators for the district that has scores below the mean for the state should receive no pay for the first year and terminated at the end of the second year, after being required to pay back to the district the second year's salary and pension benefits. Failures should not be compensated. Principals of schools with a year below the mean should have their salaries frozen and subject to termnation at the end of the second year if they are in charge of the same school for the second year and if their score is below the mean. Teachers who have advance students a grade level when their performance is below the state mean should have their salary frozen for the first year and terminated at the end of the second year. The bargaining unit should be decertified at the end of the second year if the scores earned by the membership are below the mean for the state. New teachers, administrators and school board members who can figure out that performance matters should not be hard to find.
x December 28, 2012 at 03:38 PM
So our kids should get a lesser education, while possibly having to wait an additional year before we have an adequate teacher replace him/her to keep our children learning in a possible curve / environment?? Once a red flag or lack of performance comes into question, there should be a assistant teacher in the room as well. Full time. We had our children in a public elementary school a couple of year ago that had a teacher we were assigned, that we had caught belittling the children. To them, to there parents ... unwilling to be helpful through parent-teacher meetings ... caught shacking a student ... the list really does go on and on. We went to the district office after the principal refused to let us transfer teachers. They did nothing as well. We ended up pulling together all we had to get our kids into private school. Regarding the teacher and that class ... we weren't the first ones, and they're still making the move today because of the same darn teacher.
x December 28, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Police and teachers are very much in the same ballpark. They both deal with a human life! Teachers get our children from as early as 5-6 yrs old for a good part of the day, which makes them even more important to me than even an officer of the law. A cop doesn't hang out with your kids (all day) unless the kids head up the wrong path.
Charlie Goldie December 28, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Why not have a system similar to our elected government officials? A teacher is hired and goes through the current two year evaluation and review process. If the final evaluation is positive after the two years, the teacher get a two year tenure. Then after the two year tenure (now a four year total as teacher) the teacher is evaluated by school administrators, teachers' union, students and parents. Each group would have a weighted say determined by professional people in education before the process is approved. For example, admin. might have 35% say, union 35% and student/parents 30%. The reviews and evaluation would have to be graded by a professional procedure to give each group a numeric value. The teacher would get a new four year tenure if the numeric value was in the passing range. This tenure review would continue for the teacher every four years. We as people change goals and motivation with time. Some good teachers "burn-out" and should change jobs. Most businesses have employee reviews on a regular time frame. This allows the employer to determine if they want to keep the employee. It also rewards the good employee with a wage increase.


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