By Trip Gabriel, New York Times, February 24, 2011
Responding to criticism that tenure gives even poor teachers a job for life, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday to overhaul how teachers are evaluated and dismissed.
In her plan, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, addresses criticism of tenure.
It would give tenured teachers who are rated unsatisfactory by their principals a maximum of one school year to improve. If they did not, they could be fired within 100 days.
Teacher evaluations, long an obscure detail in an educator’s career, have moved front and center as school systems try to identify which teachers are best at improving student achievement, and to remove ineffective ones.
The issue has erupted recently, with many districts anticipating layoffs because of slashed budgets. Mayors including Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Cory A. Booker of Newark have attacked seniority laws, which require that teacher dismissals be based on length of experience rather than on competency.
Ms. Weingarten has sought to play a major role in changing evaluations and tenure, lest the issue be used against unions to strip their influence over work life in schools — just as Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Ohio are trying to do this week.
Critics say that removing teachers is nearly impossible because of the obstructions that unions have put up. Administrators also bear some blame. Most evaluations are perfunctory — a drive-by classroom observation by a vice principal — and hearings to prove incompetence can be long and costly.
Finally, a teachers' union leader with spine!
We have all known teachers whose performance was below par, yet who continued to walk into a classroom in front of three dozen young, innocents without worrying about whether any learning actually took place while there. And we have all fretted about what to do in such cases.
Here, at last, is one union leader of teachers, albeit in the U.S. (not in Canada) who knows that if she and her union do not get out in front of this issue, both she and the union will lose their credibility and any potentially effective role in developing better schools.
Of course, there will be teachers' union leaders around the world who will decry Ms Weingarten's position. They have become accustomed to protecting those underperforming teachers in every school system.
And their teachers havae become accustomed to that protection, at the price of enhanced learning opportunities for students.
It will be very intersting to watch the reactions from teachers union leaders around the globe...as to whether this sacred cow of the education system will survive. We have serious and legitimate doubts that it will, or can.