Thursday, February 17, 2011

This is crazy

I finished a chapter about whether the hiring process in the teaching profession is flawed. There certainly seems to be some problems there.


    Ideally a school should be able to hire and fire the teachers they decide are best for their institution. Instead they are beholden to a series of agreements and laws that force them to conduct much of the hiring and firing in the early spring, months before the school year begins and the actual demand for teachers in known. They are also unable to keep the teachers they want and remove the ones they decide are a poor fit, or are not producing enough. Instead they are forced to eliminate the most junior teacher without any other consideration. I heard recently that in one state the "teacher of the year" was pink-slipped because he was the most junior. If a school is forced to fire the best teacher the state has to offer because of a union agreement, or state law, then something is wrong.

    It creates a system in which the school that just made an effort to find the teacher they decided was the best for their school through a rigorous hiring process is forced to release that teacher at the end of the year, just in case they will no longer need him because they will be unable to release him in the fall. Furthermore they cannot release another teacher who may have grown complacent or even belligerent and spiteful. Nope, the school is forced to release the teachers they recently sought after and gladly placed in their classroom. Imagine baseball teams releasing their most recent draft pick to save money rather than the player who has not produced for the past few years and his past his prime. A team owner would likely not make that decision, but schools are forced to do exactly that. They cut the newest teachers who are energetic, and full of inspiration and insight from their recent studies, even though they are inexperienced.

    I would like to see some change in the way in which teachers are hired and fired in our schools. This may seem simple but it will not be easy. It will pit teachers against each other, but this is already the case so until we address this problem it will continue. President Obama mentioned getting rid of poor teachers and encouraging new and enthusiastic ones, but so far I have not seen a change. I was worried when I heard him make the point in his campaign that he did not know how much influence the union had over education. This is not the whole of the challenge, but it would do well to allow schools to have more influence over their own staff.

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