Open Up The Teaching Profession

Filed in Education at State Level by on March 13, 2012

teachersMarcus Winters wrote a piece for The Weekly Standard entitled, “Let a Thousand Teachers Bloom.”  In it he discusses one of the primary issues when it comes to education reform – the teachers.  They are necessary, but currently, he argues, our system is ill equipped to root out the bad ones and reward the good ones.  He shared a statistic that is mind numbing – over the last 18 years 94% of schools in Illinois didn’t even try to fire a single tenured teacher.

Our current system with or without tenure (here is Iowa we don’t have tenure, but it still is extremely difficult to get rid of bad teachers) it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of bad teachers.

The unions protect them, the paperwork is intense, it’s a huge headache and frankly isn’t worth it in the minds of a lot of principals.

Winters wrote:

The cure, then, is to turn the system on its head: Open the floodgates to the teaching profession. Any college graduate who can convince a principal to hire her should be eligible to teach in a public school. The success of alternative certification programs such as Teach for America provides clear evidence that great teachers (as well as bad teachers) can enter the classroom through a variety of doors. 

Since effective teachers cannot be identified before they teach, what is needed is a meaningful measure of the teacher’s independent contribution to students’ learning after she is actually on the job. Development of a generally reliable evaluation system is the reform on which all other promising policies hinge. And it can be done—the statistical tools exist to measure the teacher’s “value added.” Since statistical measures of teacher quality are by their nature imperfect, however, they should not be used in isolation.

Also needed are observations of teachers’ performance, though they should be far more rigorous than those currently used. Research shows that principals are capable of identifying ineffective teachers, but they don’t do so now because giving bad ratings creates headaches without actually leading to the dismissal of inadequate teachers. If principals are held accountable for their schools’ performance, they will have an incentive to assess their teachers accurately and to act on those assessments. Teachers who are not helping their students learn should be removed from the classroom. No student should have to suffer with a bad teacher simply because that teacher has been in the system for more than three years and thus cannot be fired.

Another necessary step is to pay successful teachers more than mediocre teachers. Performance pay would give teachers an incentive to put forth their best effort. But even more important, differentiating pay according to performance would improve retention of the best teachers. The problem with raising all teachers’ salaries under the current system is that higher salaries are just as attractive to weak teachers as they are to strong teachers. Higher salaries should go to the teachers a principal most wants to keep.

He said while people will say such a move is anti-teacher it is actually supportive of quality teachers.  Trying to treat bad teachers and good teachers the same is not respectful for those who are doing a good job.

This again is an issue where increased local control would come into play because where did all of the labor laws and regulations governing teacher pay and performance come from?  It happens at the State level, and often they handicap a school principal from doing his or her job.  I know it will like teachers’ union members head explode, but teachers more than a centralized set of standards will make an impact on the quality of education our kids receive.  That’s been backed up by experience.  Those who promote the Common Core just want to field test on our kids.

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About the Author ()

Shane Vander Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Caffeinated Thoughts, a popular Christian conservative blog in Iowa. He is also the President of 4:15 Communications, a social media & communications consulting/management firm, along with serving as the communications director for American Principles Project’s Preserve Innocence Initiative.  Prior to this Shane spent 20 years in youth ministry serving in church, parachurch, and school settings.  He has taught Jr. High History along with being the Dean of Students for Christian school in Indiana.  Shane and his wife home school their three teenage children and have done so since the beginning.   He has recently been recognized by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as one of the top political influencers in Iowa. Shane and his family reside near Des Moines, IA.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Google +.

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