Thursday, January 21, 2010

Firing Teachers

I used to blog for my old company, but they took the blog down. I am
not actually allowed to own the writings I put up on that blog, but as
I reference them on occasion in my writing I am putting those articles
up in my archives here for reference sake. I'll put the tag GS on those
articles noting that they were originally published on the

Firing Teachers

May 22, 2008 – 6:48 am by Brendan

Yesterday I wrote about attracting the best and the brightest teachers. There are two basic things that need to change if we are going to attract the best and the brightest teachers. (This is not to say that some of the teachers now aren’t the best and the brightest.) The first is to raise teacher pay and the second is to increase the respect for the profession of teaching.

It always shocks me how many people think teachers don’t work for their money. It also shocks me how so many people, when they find out I am a teacher will, tell me how great it is I’m in such a noble profession. Both statements bother me.

I don’t teach for some sense of nobility. I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t think it is particularly easy, but the work is something I like to do. Isn’t that what all those self help books say is the key to happiness, enjoy your job and it won’t feel like work? As for not actually earning the money we get paid, well I can list a dozen reasons why you are over paid also, but no one complains because your paycheck doesn’t come out of my taxes.

Anyway, the point of this article is why not just fire all those horrible teachers? As most people would tell you it is the little matter of tenure. It is difficult and expensive to fire a teacher. Personally, I don’t see how or why it would cost over $100,000 to fire someone, especially when there is documented evidence that he was touching female students and asking for synonyms for oral sex, and more. Of course I think I would have just called to police and had him arrested. Then you could fire him for not showing up to work while he spent the next 10 years in jail. Just like the reason they fired Tiffany Shepard.

The problem is teachers aren’t and shouldn’t be at will employees like most of the rest of America. The first time a child goes home and complains to mommy and daddy about the horrible teacher who gives out homework and your out looking for a job. So the teacher’s union came in and brought protections to the teachers. Today we have rules and procedures for getting rid of bad teachers, but because it has to be refereed by lawyers, we end up with huge legal bills.

I think too many administrators and others too often let poor teachers continue teaching without any paper trail. When 84% of school districts in Illinois have never given any tenured teacher a bad job evaluation over an 11-year period something is wrong. Of course it is difficult to corroborate this finding because often complaints about teachers are kept private. Then again it has been so difficult to firebad teachers for so long I’m willing to bet many of them were promoted out of the classroom. (Schools are not alone in this practice) And no your principal is not one of those promotions.

There is no doubt that teachers are in a tenuous position. If we are to effectively teach we must have the authority to ask students to do things they sometimes don’t want to do. We must be able to tell parents the truth about the observations we make of their children. We must have the freedom to choose what and how to most effectively teach. (Within the curriculum and within reason) We also have many judgment calls to make everyday. Like this counselor fired for not reporting possible abuse. The problem according to her is that the child almost always exaggerates for attention and she didn’t believe him, though she did some follow up on her own and didn’t find any proof.

Mary Huges obviously made a mistake in not reporting the possible abuse, as the father eventually pleaded guilty of that very crime. Should she be fired for it is a decision that the school board should make. They did. Did she have a right to fight her termination? Obviously the South Dakota supreme Court felt she did. Furthermore they felt that the school board made a mistake. I’m not so sure I agree, but when you have only one reason to fire a person you take those chances.

I think it is safe to assume that most if not all school districts have a procedure to remove tenured teachers. It involves a lot of documentation, observations of teaching, red tape, chants, prayers, and magic spells. I agree that there should be a fairly long and involved procedure for firing teachers. I think it should be possible though.

Just remember these generalities. If students think they can get a teacher fired there are many who would simply because it is easier than learning. If parents could get a teacher fired there are many who would simply because it is easier than being a good parent. If teachers aren’t afraid of getting fired there are many who won’t teach because it is easier than actually working.

The one and only reason I like No Child Left Behind is that NCLB has forced schools to concentrate on performance. More classroom observations are being done, more questions are being asked, more thought is being put into things like curriculum and methods. I just wish they had thought more about how to effectively measure the performance of a teacher before they decided to test the heck out of our kids.

Right now teacher unions would like to, among other things, protect teachers, improve working conditions and raise pay. That’s why we form unions. Schools could negotiate a better procedure for firing tenured teachers by raising pay. Here we can kill two birds with one stone, increase pay and get better teachers and make it easier remove bad teachers at the same time. Soon we have better schools and the increase in pay becomes worth it.

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