Hire & Fire

Two opinion pieces in the last few days offer an interesting juxtaposition:  Center for American Progress analysts Ulrich Boser and Robin Chait write over at Politico about firing teachers, and call for more of it.  The Times editorial page embraces the more systemic human capital approach that some charter school management organizations are employing.

Both make some good points but one of the key aspects of why the CMOs don’t have to fire many teachers is that they’ve become pretty good at hiring.  That’s in part a result of the numbers of people who want to teach there — they can be selective — and also because of a lot of attention to this function.  In other words, while the comprehensive approach is key, some things are absolutely necessary and better hiring = less firing.  This is not, by the way, some sort of revealed truth.   Rather, it’s common practice in high-performing organizations.   The problem is how little attention has been paid to these issues in education.

3 Replies to “Hire & Fire”

  1. In my experience as a former teacher, the quality of the teacher is only one factor in a student’s eduction (and not the most important one). The biggest factor in determining a student’s level of achievement is the student himself (and his family and peers). The administration also plays an important role, especially with regard to discipline and behavior standards (which of course are impacted in turn by federal, state and local laws).

    I saw many motivated, hardworking teachers struggle to teach classes of students who did not behave, did not attend class regularly, and did not study or complete homework regularly. Uninvolved parents also played a role (although many would have liked to be more involved but were stymied by lack of knowledge of English, lack of working telephones or computers, and/or working two or more jobs).

    I find it doubtful that firing teachers of underperforming students is the answer. Instead, we should look at the core of the problem: The students themselves and how their behavior (and/or that of their classmates) can make it very difficult for teachers to do their job.

  2. Hiring better teachers would certainly help. But you’re assuming that principals have access to talent pools that they often don’t.

  3. Working as a first-year math teacher in New Jersey, I am faced with the unfortunate reality that recent budget cuts will likely lead to a significant amount of teachers getting laid off at the end of this year. Due to the fact that I am the only non-tenured teacher in my department, I know that I will be the one asked to leave if my department is cut. Despite all of the positive feedback I have received from my administrators and colleagues this year, there is nothing I can do to stop this. My department already had two teachers cut since last year, and our classes are larger than they have been in a while. If the goal of our educational system is for all students to be successful, I do not see how cutting more teachers will help this come about. Additionally, I find it unfortunate that no matter how effective I may be as a teacher, I will automatically be the first one cut. I was recently discussing with my professional learning community how we know of tenured teachers that we do not believe are effective, but how their jobs are safe because they have been teaching for a number of years. We need to think of the negative impact that ineffective teachers are having on our students. At this point, I can only hope that my job is not cut and that I have a chance to make a positive impact on my department and on my students.

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