Chariho School Parents’ Forum

July 19, 2008

The difficulty in weeding out incompetence

Filed under: contract negotiations,Student Performance,Unions — Editor @ 12:46 pm

The following article is from USA Today about how difficult it is to fire an incompetent teacher.  Speaking of which – it should be noted that on Tuesday’s meeting we had an opportunity to change another contact but all efforts were shot down.  I tried to amend the contract by eliminating the automatic roll-over (remember that the committee voted down on the previous contracts but they automatically rolled-over so our vote meant nothing) and I tried to eliminate the wording of “Blue Cross” that eliminates any competitive bids for health insurance.  Both measures were defeated citing a new sub committee for contracts that will make those decisions.

More of the same – year after year we see the contacts continue to treat public sector workers with bigger raises and better insurance with lower copays.  When will our elected politicians start treating public sector employees just like those of us who pay the bills?

I will also scan and post the minutes from the contact sub committee. You might find some of the comments as interesting as I did – they seemed to be more interested in finding a way to counter negative press than actually fixing the contracts.

From the USA Today (and as you read this understand that we have the same problems here at Charhio – anyone who tells you different has never been on the school committee or isn’t telling you the truth):

New York City’s school system is among the nation’s leaders in trying to root out ineffective teachers. Under the aggressive leadership of Chancellor Joel Klein, here’s what those efforts have reaped: In the 2006-07 school year, exactly eight teachers were fired for incompetence.

That’s eight out of 55,000, or 0.01%. Each of those firings burned up an average 25 days of hearings and 150 hours of principal time. The cost to get rid of each bad teacher totaled $225,000.

It’s no wonder most school districts don’t even bother trying to oust incompetent teachers. Superintendents have a hard enough time getting sex offenders and drunks out of the classroom. Yet more forceful efforts to weed out ineffective instructors are a key to making schools better.

Klein and other reformers agree that outstanding teachers are the single most important factor in turning around struggling schools. Years ago, researchers settled on effective teaching as the most powerful of education reforms. A child who has three good teachers in a row has a head start on success; three lousy teachers can trigger devastating consequences.

Despite these findings, firing burned out or incompetent teachers is considered next to impossible. Why? Largely because of the power of teachers’ unions. New York state is typical. Years of inept contract bargaining at the district level matched by years of effective union lobbying produced a system where all the power lies with the accused teacher.

This imbalance isn’t limited to states with teachers’ unions. In non-union states, bureaucratic inertia creates a similar effect. In either case, the tragedy is that children get stuck with ineffective teachers.

The New Teacher Project, which studied Chicago’s schools over several years and also interviewed principals from several states, found that administrators have little incentive to remove incompetent teachers. A bad teacher can also be a popular teacher, creating conflict. Given the time and effort required to process a bad teacher through the system, it’s easier to encourage the poor teacher to transfer  —  which merely shifts the problem to someone else’s classroom.

The researchers also found that performance evaluations can be meaningless. In Chicago, only three of every 1,000 teachers get an unsatisfactory rating. About 90% of teachers get the top ratings. If all these teachers are so great, why is Chicago one of the nation’s most troubled urban districts?

(editors note: if Chariho is so good, meriting “high performing” marks, why are less than a third of our kids at grade level for math?)

Something needs to change. Unions have to realize that educating kids is more important than protecting inept members. Superintendents and principals have to be willing to take on battles they’d rather avoid. All sides can come together to build on current programs that use teacher peer groups to ease bad teachers out of the profession.

If politicians, teachers and administrators really believe in putting children first, they won’t let the status quo continue.



  1. It’s rather ironic that I got into this same topic today with a co-worker who’s wife was a teacher in the Coventry school system. He can’t understand why I feel there’s a need to be able to evaluate teachers based on performance. I, as a taxpayer, will argue vociferously for the changes needed to be able to evaluate teachers just as I’m evaluated in the private sector, based on performance, and my pay increases are based on what I do, not for how long I’ve been with the company. Also, the unions need to get real and accept a health insurance co-payment for all members, not just those who were hired after a certain date.

    Comment by CharihoParent — July 19, 2008 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  2. On Hopkinton Underground they have a discussion about the salary for a newly hired Assistant Principal at the Middle School ($90,000 +). Information on teachers’ salaries was posted. According to the NEA, Rhode Island teachers salaries were #9 in the country in 2005. If there wasn’t telling enough, the teacher to student ratio in Rhode Island was #2 at 11.3.

    Teacher salary is important, but the teacher/student ration is at least as important because the more teachers the more we pay. With Rhode Island among the nation’s leader in both categories, we should be demanding results commensurate with our community paying top dollar for education. Mr. Petit and others can tell us how hard they are trying until the cows come home….Chariho is not getting the job done and the administration needs to be held to account.

    No more $90,000 assistants…no more failure…at this point the total collapse of Chariho could be the best thing to happen to our children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — July 21, 2008 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

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