|Advice for Superintendents
This is for the superintendents out there who are concerned about the bad teachers on their staff, the superintendents who are afraid that they are either awash in a sea of incompetence or watching the rising tide or terror that comes from a few bad apples spreading their blasting blight through the district barrel. For those of you who are worried that you have some teachers who just aren’t doing the job, here’s some simple advice.
Seriously, I feel some days that superintendents have simply forgotten that they have some powers with their job, that they feel helpless in the face of terrible, terrible teaching. So to thse of you in these dire straits, I want to remind you what you can do.
You can fire them.
You do remember that, right? You have the power to fire incompetent teachers.
Yes, yes, I know. It would be hard. You would have to fill out papers, and probably have meetings and somebody might even object and make you explain yourself. You might have to actually prove that the teacher really is incompetent and not merely annoying or irritating or refusing to play a board member’s kid on first string.
But you can do that, right? Provide proof that the teacher is actually incompetent? You went to superintendent school and took Filling Out Superintendent Paperwork 101?
Hell, in some states, it’s not even that hard any more. Just stack the offending teacher’s classes so that the test scores will come back just the way you want them. Boom! You have your “proof” that the teacher sucks.
Document. Collect information. Observe. Hell, even attempt remediation if you like. And then.
I repeat this because to hear some superintendents talk, you would think they were expressly forbidden to fire anybody ever. They need their state to pass new laws because, somehow, they believe they have no power to fire bad teachers. So I want to remind you– you totally have that power. Hell, I’ve watched some of you use it. So if there are bad teachers in your district,
Now, maybe what you really mean is that you want to be able to fire them easily. Just a wave of your hand and some teacher that has been a pain in your butt will just vanish. Maybe you imagined that being a superintendent would look more like being the CEO of some major corporation and you could just snap your fingers and people who irritate you would vanish without so much as a peep and you wouldn’t have to explain anything to anyone. Well, that’s not your job. You answer top elected officials and you spend tax dollars and the public is entitled to know why you do things and whether or not you are pursuing the best interests of the public or whether you just axed Mrs. DeWhipsnot because you’ll be damned if you’ll have One of Those on your staff.
I know it sucks. Hell, I was hoping that being a teacher would be more like being a rich, famous rock star. Looks like we both missed out.
But if you want to get rid of a bad teacher, senior or not, just do your homework. Collect the paperwork. Build your case. Do your homework. Do your job. And then, once you’ve done your job, well, then-
Yes, I know in some districts (particularly the big urban ones) the hoops you have to jump through are considerable. I blame your board which negotiated a bad contract in the first place. But this is your job. This is why you get the big bucks. And really– are you saying that you should be able to fire a bad teacher without being able to substantiate the charge that she’s a bad teacher? You should be able to fire her just because you want to and you say so? Think back to some of the people you worked for early in your career. Heck, th9ink about some of the building principals who work for you right now. Does the “because I say so” approach really sound ike a good idea?
And yes, you could just rank your teachers and always furlough the bottom of the stack every time the state cuts your budget. I suppose it’s easier than actually pressuring the state to fully fund your school. But how will you ever recruit and build a staff? Yes, young teachers will initially think, “This is great. I won’t have to worry about losing my job in the first few years that I’m least senior.” But eventually it will dawn on them that they will have to worry about their jobs in that same youngest teacher way for the rest of their entire careers– particularly when we’re using a teacher ranking system no more reliable than the roll of the dice.
So sure, we could come up with some new set of laws that would upend the profession and incite thunderdome amongst the staff and make life really easy for the poor, beleagured superintendent.
Or, when you determine in your considered professional superintendenty opinion that a teacher is incompetent, you could collect the data, do your job and then–
You could fire them.And if you didn’t want to do the work to fire them, you could stop whining about it.
“North Carolina Senate Bill 873, named the “Access to Affordable College Education Act,” is a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to bankrupt five of the state’s universities. By reducing tuition to Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, UNC Pembroke, Winston-Salem State and Western Carolina to $500 per semester, it renders them unsustainable as four-year institutions and foretells their transformation into community colleges. … But Bill 873 also has another purpose, which is to rename four of the five campuses. That goal is presumptive, ignorant, and, frankly, racist. The bill calls for a study of “the impact of each university’s name on the institution’s academic strength, enrollment, and diversity. The Board of Governors may make recommendations on any potential changes to the legislature. …The only possible reason to rename historically black universities is to sever them from their African American heritage to attract more white students.”
Read the rest of this op-ed essayObliterating UNC’s black history | The Charlotte Observerhere:
Gilmore is a history professor at Yale University.
Posted: 19 May 2016 03:09 PM PDT
Yesterday, the Governor of Pennsylvania vetoed the “Protecting Excellent Teachers Act” bill that would lessen the role of seniority for teachers throughout the state. Simultaneously, the bill would increase the role of “observable” teacher effects, via teachers’ “performance ratings” as determined at least in part via the use of value-added model (VAM) estimates (i.e., using the popular Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS)). These “performance ratings” at issue are to be used for increased consequential purposes (e.g., teacher terminations/layoffs, even if solely for economic reasons).
Governor Wolff is reported as saying that “the state should spend its time investing in improving teachers and performance standards, not paving the way for layoffs. In his veto message, he noted that the evaluation system was designed to identify a teacher’s weaknesses and then provide the opportunity to improve.” He is quoted as adding, “Teachers who do not improve after being given the opportunity and tools to do so are the ones who should no longer be in the classroom…This [emphasis added] is the system we should be using to remove ineffective teachers.”
The bill, passed by both the House and Senate, and supported by the state School Boards Association among others, is apparently bound to resurface, however. Also because Republicans are charging the Governor with “resisting reform at the same time he wants more funding for education.” Increased funding is not going to happen without increased accountability, apparently, and according to Republican leaders.
Read more here, as per the article originally printed in The Philadelphia Inquirer.