Tim Knowles Gives Tenure Reform A Wet Kiss

Late, but I’ve been traveling: Tim Knowles with a powerful (wrt who he is and what he says) piece in the WSJ ($).

As a former teacher, principal and district leader, I’ve devoted my life to providing children with the excellent education they deserve. And in my 23 years on the job, there are two things I’ve learned for certain.

First, teachers have a greater impact on student learning than any other school-based factor. Second, we will not produce excellent schools without eliminating laws and practices that guarantee teachers—regardless of their performance—jobs for life.

…This pathological status quo feeds upon itself: The more difficult it is for principals to address underperformance, the more likely they are to use informal methods to do so. This fuels labor’s argument that management is capricious, strengthening their case for increased employment protection.

One Reply to “Tim Knowles Gives Tenure Reform A Wet Kiss”

  1. Although I hate to give Michelle Rhee credit for anything, I must admit that she has exposed the myths of the “teacher for life” and the “Teacher who can’t be fired.” People might not realize it yet, but Ms. Rhee has shown us the truth about teacher “tenure” (i.e. due process):

    Every state has laws for the proper dismissal of a teacher. When these laws are followed, it is not that difficult to dismiss a teacher. In DC, as in many other places, there is a 90-day plan. If legal procedures are followed, the courts usually uphold the dismissal. Most principals, because of their heavy workloads, don’t have the time or inclination to go through legal procedures. Cash-strapped districts don’t have the money to hire people to assist with teacher evaluations. In DC extra money was used to facilitate a teacher evaluation plan.

    When the dismissal or evaluation of a teacher is overturned, it is the judicial system that make these decisions, not “the unions.”

    Dismissing a teacher is a function of administration, and not “the unions.” The unions do not hire, fire or evaluate teachers.

    50% of all teachers quit during their first five years. Many are “counseled out” of the profession. Teachers are contracted workers whose contracts are “not renewed.” Teachers are seldom fired unless they break a law. Because of the huge numbers of teachers who leave the profession, TEACHING IS PROBABLY MORE SELECTIVE THAN ANY OTHER PROFESSION.

    Over 90% of all teachers receive good evaluations from their administrators. This is the most likely reason for the myth. Principals simply do not even try to dismiss ineffective teachers, especially in urban areas. THE FACT THAT PRINCIPALS GIVE STELLAR EVALUATIONS TO MOST TEACHERS SHOWS THAT THEY DON’T EVEN ATTEMPT TO DISMISS WEAK TEACHERS. The reason for this is usually supply and demand. During good economic times, it’s very difficult to hire and retain teachers for inner-city schools. The goal of the principal is to hang on to every teacher so classrooms won’t have to be staffed by substitutes.

    Economic circumstances, (i.e. the difficulty urban districts have in hiring and retaining teachers) is probably the main reason why districts try to hang on to every teacher they hire.

    All states have “due process” laws for teachers. This means that after a probationary period of two to five years, a teacher cannot be dismissed without “cause.” THESE LAWS COME FROM LEGISLATORS AND NOT UNIONS. All government workers (police, firefighters, librarians) have strong job security to take the place of competitive salaries. Does anyone want less for our teachers? If so, why?

    “Rubber Rooms” are unique to very large cities; that’s why they make the papers. In my 42 years of teaching, I never saw or heard of anything like this. These large districts simply can’t handle teacher evaluations and dismissals in a timely manner. Again, this represents an administrative shortcoming, and is not the fault of “the unions.”

    The bottom line is that administrators in almost all districts across the United States give good evaluations to almost all teachers. This is a matter of record, and not opinion.

    Unions do not hire, fire, or evaluate teachers. Administrators do.

    According to the Gallup poll, teachers are held in very high esteem by the public (third place and ahead of physicians). So the protection that teachers are awarded comes from the will of the people, as expressed in laws, and not from “the unions.”

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