The old meme was that replacing the 5 to 10% of teachers who are "grossly ineffective" could drive school improvement. That figure was mostly borrowed from the corporate tactic known as stacking where the low-performing employees were routinely sacked.
I agree that bad teachers are disproportionately found in high-challenge schools and that they should be dismissed. I rarely see evidence that union contracts play a significant role in protecting them.
Unions defend the collective bargaining agreement, not the individual who is charged. The CBA protects our right to teach.
Unions don't supervise principals who have more pressing priorities than evaluating teachers.
Neither have I heard a scenario for recruiting enough qualified replacements to staff inner city schools so that management can tackle the not-so-difficult job of firing bad teachers.
The public relations campaign known as Vergara v California is claiming to be something other than a blood-in-the-eye corporate assault on public education. So, the new meme is that even David Berliner, an expert witness for the defense, estimates that 1 to 3% of teachers should be dismissed.
Its not hard to identify the the bottom 1, 3, or 5%. But reformers would undermine the effectiveness of the vast majority of teachers by using value-added evaluations to get rid of the few grossly ineffective ones. They would force teachers to teach to the test in order to cover their rear ends. They would try to make teaching a more attractive job by undermining the soul of our wonderful profession!?!?
Vergara has accidently redefined the teacher quality issue as removing the bottom 1 to 3%, and preventing the handful of outrageous cases where it costs hundreds of thousands dollars to fire a teacher. That is an unintended step toward common sense. Real world, absurd foulups happen. That's life. And usually the few extreme cases are unfunny comedies of errors where all sides miscalculate. It is the very few complicated and mishandled teacher termination cases, like the very few medical and legal cases that spin out of control, that run up unconscionable bills.
I wish reformers would accept the fact that firing a bad teacher isn't that hard, but principals tend to be so overburdened that the dismissal of the bottom 1 to 3% rarely makes their to-do list. And, given the deplorable conditions in so many high-poverty schools, recruiting replacements for even the worst teachers in those schools would be a challenge.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.