Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lost Teachers

       Many teachers, top notch teachers, are getting letters of non-renewal because we have given principals authority to remove all of the 'bad teachers'.  Reformers have held up the concept of a bad teacher as a scary boogie man that is so pervasive in public education.  In the hunt for these bad teachers great teachers are being lost from the profession. There are few checks and balances to protect teachers from capricious administrators.  There is also not a carefully outlined definition of bad teacher.

      Let's imagine for a minute a bell curve.  At one end of the curve there are teachers that make children delighted to be in class.  They create innovative lessons and manage to gracefully handle the demands of their jobs.  Not that the demands do not take a toll but they handle it.  They enjoy the process of teaching.  On the other end of the spectrum you have people in classrooms who throw fits and trash cans.

      There was always a process to remove people who were not fit for the classroom, the fits and trash can types  The notion that no teacher could be fired 15 years ago is incorrect. I have seen it happen.

      Fifteen years ago there were checks and balances.  The number of teachers removed from their position was so low the union was able to provide placement services for the teachers who couldn't cut it.

      Fast forward to 2015, my system lost 400 teachers last year.  The state is running at a deficit of teachers and new people are not signing up for teacher preparation programs.  Who can blame them.

       I know an eighth grader who has lost two of his favorite teachers this year.  One in the middle of the school year and one a month before school ended.  The year before he also lost his favorite teacher in seventh grade.  We are trimming the bell curve from both ends.  By what I can see, the trim is much deeper into the competent end of the curve.

      I know too many teachers who put their heart and soul into their work who are being dismissed over professional jealousy, prejudices and inappropriate relationships to which these lost teachers are not part.  If a teacher is willing to do excellent work, there needs to be oversight and soul searching before they are dismissed.  I would argue these teachers should never be dismissed.  A principal who removes one of them has no business being a principal. That's why I am labelling them lost teachers instead of dismissed. An error has occurred with several and should be rectified.

      Tennessee districts do not need to wait to collect more data.  Do something now to stop the flow of great teachers from Tennessee systems.  All principal decisions should be given oversight with a teacher advocate in the system advocating for the lost teacher and a review process.  New teacher should be given this protection as well.  Teachers who have done well and were dismissed under suspicious circumstances should have their case reviewed.  If the teacher was subjected to a capricious admin and is willing to come back she/he should be restored to a position.

      Subject administrators to a points system so that a tally of lost teachers is maintained as public record.  Let the record begin three years back.  Scrutinize carefully administrators that have lost the greatest number of teachers.  If they are found to have acted capriciously remove them from management.

      There is not an endless supply of great teachers.  We need to do everything we can now to protect this resource. If we do not protect this group, we may not be able to replace them. 


  1. I agree. Too many teachers are being shifted around. We are treated as though we are disposable, and then I read that nonsense from the Parthenon Group who recommends that MNPS retain "great teachers."

    1. Too much authority is given to the wrong people. I hope the new superintendent will set things right.