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Bad teachers or bad administrators?

Monday, Mar 7, 2011

* The Tribune editorial page posted a graphic the other day which purports to show that it takes two to five years to fire a bad Chicago Public Schools teacher

* Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, fired back in an op-ed

Tribune: Fire teachers faster.

Union: The Tribune claims that it can take two to five years for a teacher to be dismissed. Actually, the average is about one year. What the editorial board failed to mention is that once the teacher completes but still fails supervised remediation, that teacher is no longer in the classroom. Also unacknowledged is that CPS always appeals dismissal cases that are overturned by the Illinois State Board of Education, prolonging the process. That gets expensive when you factor in back pay for the years teachers are kept out of the classroom.

* She also included this surprising stat…

Not many know this, but 50 percent of teachers leave CPS within five years. In my 23 years of teaching, nine times out of 10 when I ask a teacher why she or he is leaving the answer is, “It’s not the kids. It’s the system.”

* From an e-mail exchange with the IFT…

The new teacher evaluation system that is being developed will make a larger impact on teacher quality than any changes to the dismissal hearing process. This new system will force administrators to do a better job evaluating teachers and the student growth model (test scores are a part of this) will provide a much more solid case for why someone is or isn’t doing the job at a level that is satisfactory. We have always said that when a district has a good case, a teacher usually resigns.

More importantly, that new evaluation system will also help teachers identify ways they can do the job even better. At the Ed. reform hearings, even the business guys said the number one purpose for evaluations is to help your employees improve.

* Meanwhile, Catalyst reports that limiting teacher tenure and all but abolishing their right to strike is dead at the Statehouse. Instead, Senate negotiators are working with all sides to come up with other reforms

The goal, sources say, is for “performance” – as measured by students’ test scores and other types of assessments – to count more in a dismissal or assignment decision than mere years of experience as a teacher. Tenure will still count, but in a subordinate way.

From such general concepts the negotiators plow into the details, which can become a bit sticky.

* But Progress Illinois isn’t convinced that the tenure/strike bill is dead

Still, the all-of-a-sudden powerful group, Stand for Children raised big bucks, contributed heavily to influential lawmakers, and hired major lobbyists. Oh, and Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel supports the proposal as well. This bill isn’t dead; it’s just sleeping.

Unions will never forget how Speaker Madigan rammed through a hostile pension reform bill when the unions thought they had a deal going with Senate President Cullerton to save the same amount of money. They’re not letting their guards down.

* Related…

* Study: Single-school districts expensive - Cost per student is up to $2,000 more than in multi-school districts

* State targets number of superintendents, salaries

* Interim CPS chief plans for the long haul but hasn’t talked to Rahm Emanuel - CPS chief Terry Mazany doesn’t expect to be in charge long, but he’s reversing predecessor Ron Huberman and leaving Rahm Emanuel a new education plan

* Cepeda: New school reform empowers parents, but so does ‘No Child’

* Staunton plans to start drug, alcohol testing: Students at Staunton High School could be tested for drugs and alcohol under reasonable suspicion, starting with the 2011-2012 school year, Staunton High School Principal Ed Fletcher said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


20 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 2:56 pm:

    There’s plenty of blame to go around: teachers, administrators, parents, lack of parents. And it only takes a few delinquents to throw a school up for grabs.


  2. - Robert Kolkebeck - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 2:59 pm:

    The sales force lobbying for mandatory drug testing should be identified. Chicago students and parents will be better served if Mayor-elect Emanuel and CTU unite to address misplaced priorities at all levels of government.


  3. - Greg - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:23 pm:

    They system has probably been designed to avoid accountability in an effort, over time, of various groups attempting to protect their interests.

    And I don’t think out of the classroom means off the payroll and off payroll is generally what people consider as being fired.


  4. - George - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:25 pm:

    Good principals know how to get rid of bad teachers. They do it all the time.

    They just eliminate that teacher’s position in the Spring (for “budget reasons”), and then re-open it once school starts in the fall (due to “unexpected enrollment”), and bring in someone new. I have seen it directly - I have seen up to 5 teachers a year at some schools get this treatment.

    Actually saying you “fired” someone is the hard part. But make no mistake - these bad teachers (and often teachers who just get on a principal’s bad side) are not around long if the principal wants to get rid of them.


  5. - Steve Bartin - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:27 pm:

    What a way to provide education! Fortunately, food and clothing aren’t provided by government run monopolies.


  6. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:33 pm:

    The teachers union and the state legislature are ignoring one of the main problems in Chicago and many Illinois schools. We have the shortest school day and shortest school year. A student in Chicago for K-12 will recieve almost 2 years less class time than a student in Houston or 11/2 less years than a student in New York. The students in Chicago are being denied the chance to succeed by the teachers union and state legislature.


  7. - Muskrat - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:37 pm:

    Anybody else find it ironic that principals want the ability to easily fire the bad teachers because “it’s obvious” and “everybody knows” which ones the losers are, but good teachers are supposed to be the ones who do not give up on the “obvious” poor students? I realize a year of bad teaching can be a disaster for a classroom that a year of having a slow kid in the back row isn’t, and adults are believed to have the power to choose to change their ways that children do not, but still.


  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 3:56 pm:

    Another often-ignored fact: Chicago Public Schools have the lowest salary cap of any school district in the state.

    Great teachers leave CPS not only to be apart of a better-run system, but also for a lot more money.


  9. - Wensicia - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 4:03 pm:

    In my district, most teachers do leave or are dismissed before they reach tenure.

    If you can’t figure out whether a teacher is good or bad in four years of probationary status when it’s easy to dismiss these teachers, then it isn’t hard to figure out who’s to blame, the administration isn’t doing their jobs.


  10. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 4:07 pm:

    I’m not saying bad teachers don’t exist, but of far more concern are the kids who go to school every other week because that’s when it’s their turn to wear the coat they share with their brother.


  11. - Fed up - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 4:34 pm:

    Well maybe if the teachers didn’t do the least amount of teaching of any schools in the country it would be easier to see them as underpaid. But considering they spend less than 1000 hrs in the classroom each year I think they are more than fairly compensated.


  12. - amalia - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 4:50 pm:

    I know that there is a whole thought body that thinks that the parents have nothing to do with the quality of the students….Waiting for Superman….but to me, that’s bunk. It is simply not true that everyone can be a superstar. Experience in high quality education with students with loving parents tells me that some people are just born with more intelligence than others. Yes, there are poor teachers. But until the system tries to recognize the highest level of talent of a child, and moves to nurture that, it’s pointless. not everyone is college material and not everyone is pastry school material. trying to help a child see their talent and helping them to develop their talent is what the system should develop in addition to basic reading and writing and thinking skills.


  13. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 5:15 pm:

    When will the Tribune begin their crackdown on bad parents? Oh wait that probably includes them.


  14. - fed up - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 5:25 pm:

    Bad parents are the big problem nothing we can really do about that. We can give kids a fighting chance by increasing the school day and school year to at least the way too low national avg. but the teachers union and their puppets in the legislature will not even allow this. Ed Maloney is worried about homeschoolers that succeed not school that fail children wonder how much campaign cash he gets to protect the unions and administrators.


  15. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 6:16 pm:

    It should be noted before we delve too far into stereotypes that there are many success stories in the Chicago Public Schools.


  16. - The Real George - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 6:43 pm:

    Did it ever occur to you that the principals are looking out for Number One and only rid themselves of first-years they don’t like, or don’t inspire enough fear in the kids, so that the deans can chit chat? Most of them are ex-football coaches anyway.

    Why has no one mentioned White Flight or Upper-Middle Class Flight or Changing Demographics? This results in a remnant of poor performers.

    As for CPS, they cannot be in a hurry to fire anyone. Who would want to teach there?


  17. - frustrated GOP - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 9:27 pm:

    Again, if the education system is so great and the pay is so high, why do business schools, engineering and even UIUC LAS have higher ACT requirements then the college of education. CPS does have a problem, they burn out good people, and those folks eitehr go into another line of work or go to a school system that gives them what they need to be successful.

    Yes, principals need to get rid of bad teachers that don’t get it right away. But we need good principals and to get them you need to pay them more then the staff.


  18. - The Real George - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 10:56 pm:

    @frustrated GOP
    I concur. Get rid of the ED schools. ED classes were so completely worthless, I forgot that there were such things as ED majors! Too bad the principals all draw from those spécialiste ranks and deign to get rid of “bad” teachers, whose classes they well-nigh flunked when they were in high school.

    “If those who can’t do, teach…
    then those who can’t teach, administrate!”


  19. - Fed Up Too! - Monday, Mar 7, 11 @ 11:05 pm:

    Fed up, I agree with you on the short school day. Who negotiated those terms? Who is that supposed to help?
    Are the teachers unions saying that the outcomes are good from CPS schools? What is their argument? Obviously, reform is necessary since the children cannot read which translates into they will not be able to compete either.
    There is plenty of blame to go around but ultimately something has to give or we lose yet another generation.
    By the way, at these hearings are there parents involved? If not, why not? Legislators, teachers unions and school management people are not enough!!


  20. - Not Surprised - Tuesday, Mar 8, 11 @ 9:48 am:

    I wish I could say this graph surprises me, but it doesn’t. I’ve taught at schools where the principals have tried to initiate the dismissal process against teachers who were literally doing NOTHING but watching movies all day with their class and not being able to get anywhere from it.

    But by the same token, I’ve also seen principals who were so bogged down in the day to day paperwork that CPS requires that they had no idea of some of the gross violations of our profession that were taking place in the building.

    I think the stat from the President of the CTU is not all that un-realistic. I was part of a New Teacher Mentoring program that aimed to keep teachers in the system, but after my two years I just couldn’t stand it anymore.

    CPS does have one of the shortest school days, and when you add in that the teachers get two “prep” periods (most of which are not used wisely…it really doesn’t serve our students.

    It’s a sad thing to watch education decline, but I think that both political leaders and union leaders are not willing to meet in the middle, and until they do we’re going to keep having endless debate.


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