Firing teachers

February 24, 2007

Kevin Drum discusses how to measure teacher quality so principals can fire the bad ones. He is skeptical that it is possible, but I’ve talked to enough principals and teachers to believe it’s clearer than most people think. Within the school, it’s often common knowledge which teachers need to go; and engaged parents certainly have ways of finding out which teachers to avoid when it’s time to sign up for classes.

Also, there is value to making it easier to fire teachers even if it doesn’t happen often. Knowing that the possibility of dismissal exists makes it principals and department heads more credible when making suggestions for teacher improvement. The current system lacks any true accountability for bad teaching.

In any case, I think it is more appropriate to deal with this issue at the local school level than to use our current system of requiring all teachers to jump through hoops set by state or federal legislators in order to be licensed as "highly qualified."

Of course, once we give principals more power over hiring and firing teachers (as well as setting salaries), we have to come up with a way of holding principals accountable for a school’s success. As in many areas of K-12 education, fixing just one problem isn’t going to improve the system overnight.

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