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4 Replies to “Change!”
Mathews allows that giving principals greater control to fire teachers carries some risk that principals may not *know* who the good teachers are, and there are data indicating that that’s true. Jim Wyckoff and his group have shown that principals in NYC vary in their success in getting poor teachers to move on.. .but that “ability” currently includes not only identifying the low-performing teachers, but knowing how to persuade them to transfer.
That’s why we need to change the culture of both principals and teachers. The AFT is offering proposals that would efficiently remove the 10% who are most ineffective. Typically, the roadblock is principals who do not want to share authority. As it stands today, we would be hardpressed to replace the 10% of the worst principals and teachers in our high poverty schools. I’d argue, though, the damage done by the worst educators is far greater that the benefits of even the best instructional reforms. In our toughest schools we need to remove far more than our worst 10% of educators, but replacing them would require incentives. On the other hand, improving school culture is the best incemtive. What teacher wouldn’t trade salary increases for the opporunity to free their students from the most ineffective teachers and principals? And if Obama can afford a Marshall Plan for new principals and teachers, then we can make some real progress.
Annually removing the bottom 10% of teachers would PROFOUNDLY raise average teacher quality. Why does this require a Marshall Plan? Give me a good data tracking system and some leaders with the courage to do what is right for kids.
If the public school leaders can’t pull that off, I can’t imagine that they deserve anyone’s confidence that the new dollars received would be any better managed than the previous ones.
I agree with Dan Willingham that principals may not know who the effective teachers are in their school. I’d also like to add that principals may not decide to fire teachers based only on their effectiveness. Principals often have personal relationships (friendships) with certain teachers, and are therefore reluctant to fire an ineffective teacher whom they like. Conversely, they may be all to eager to fire an effective teacher who is not liked on a personal level (especially if that teacher challenges the principal on school policy issues).
In my experience (both as a student and former teacher), principals rarely conducted thorough in-class evaluations of teachers, and often did not have a firm grasp of what was going on in the classrooms. I’d be hesitant to assume that a principal really knows how well any given teacher is teaching, or that the principal would make hiring and firing decisions based only on teacher quality.