The New York Times, Room for Debate Blog
A system like New York City’s that requires schools to pay upwards of $350,000 in fees, arbitration and salary, and then be forced to wait three years to dismiss an ineffective teacher, can’t possibly be working in the interests of children. But simply transferring those teachers to different schools to avoid the hassle and expense of the termination process is just as outrageous.
The ability of reform-minded chancellors like New York’s Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC to succeed in turning around schools that have been recalcitrant to improvement for decades depends on transforming the culture of those schools to one where success can thrive. Principals, as the educational leaders of their schools, should be held accountable for their results. But unless they also have both the authority to make the personnel decisions on which those results largely depend, and the flexibility to carry them out, the system is broken and their ability to succeed is severely compromised.
Likewise, Chancellor Klein’s leadership for the use of strong data systems that measure student growth and allow teachers to target instruction to best address learning needs is an essential component to improving public schools. But teacher union leadership that has fought against the use of meaningful student performance data in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions is not simply harmful to the interests of children, but harmful to teachers as well. Most teachers are dedicated, hardworking professionals who want their schools to be effective organizations geared toward producing the highest-quality education product. But the radical, highly politicized leadership of the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and their New York affiliates who have consistently pressed, through advocacy and collective bargaining, against allowing school leaders the use of these essential tools, may be as much a part of the problems as the rubber rooms themselves.
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