Monday, April 23, 2012

Response to LA Times Editorial -- To Fire a Teacher

The Los Angeles Times made a stink about how school districts do not possess many options when it comes to dismissing and ineffective, incompetent, or immoral educator.

The contractual agreement forced upon principals, school boards, and first-year teachers explains more than enough.

Teachers without tenure, during the first two or three years of their professional career, have no protection. They can be fired for the way they cut their hair or the clothes that they wear. It is ridiculous. If any class of teachers needs more protection, it would be the new teachers, many of whom are struggling to get in the rhythm of running a classroom.

Tenure for life following three years of consecutive work is too much, though. Still, teachers deserve protection.

Administrators in our school sites also deserve protection. In most schools, administrators can be fired at will. In a growing number of cases, administrators have no courage to make difficult decisions of face challenging parents for fear that they will be summarily dismissed. The tenuous nature of a principal's assignment compromises his or her capacity to lead a school, in which the leader is held responsible and accountable for decisions and actions over which the administrators have little sway beyond persuasion, exhortation, and coercion.

If school districts want to invest their school staff with greater flexibility to dismiss teachers, they need to start by firing the teachers’ unions. This collective agent of political intimidation pushes hard against meaningful reform, enough to pressure school boards and school site administrators to pick on only the weakest, unprotected elements among them: substitutes and new hires.

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