Hans A. Andrews, EdD is the Distinguished Fellow of Community College Leadership. He is a former secondary school business teacher, counselor, and community college counselor, teacher, administrator, community college president and author of seven books. His recent book, Recognition vs. Merit Pay for Our Best Teachers is available at his Matilda Press website.
Across the world there are millions of outstanding and highly competent teachers in the K-12 and college and university levels. Most all of them have outstanding teaching techniques and personalities conducive to good teaching and know how to challenge, support and guide their students in their areas of academic expertise.
There are, also, small numbers of teachers who work in these educational institutions across the countries of the world who are ill prepared, incompetent and/or lazy but are allowed to continue teaching. Competent teachers wonder why these persons are left to continue in the classrooms of their school districts.
Concerns of general public
The general public has also been getting involved in why these poor teachers are supported. The Chicago Tribune newspaper in Illinois had a class of students visit. The news reported noted that these students were all aware of who the poor or lousy teachers were in their school.
Numerous other American media have raised similar concerns in recent years. The Denver Post noted that the Denver Public School removed only 4 out of 4,500 teachers due to poor performance.
The Associated Press reported that it should be made easier for the governing boards and their administrators to ‘fire poor teachers’ in their schools. There was also a high response to have the schools pay much better and provide recognition for their excellent teachers.
Concerns found in numerous countries
Australia: A Dr. Ben Jensen’s work with the Grattan Institute found 90% of the Australian teachers felt there was both a lack of recognition for excellent teachers and a lack of addressing the continuing problem of under-performing teachers.
Southern Australia established a plan to offer a $50,000 ‘buy-out’ bonus retirement incentive payment program to pay poorly performing teachers. This author challenged this program by pointing out that such a program was almost unbelievable. When the pay of good teachers and adequate supplies cannot be provided adequately these poorly performing teachers should not be provided with these kinds of ‘bonuses’. It also identified the lack of an adequate teacher evaluation system that should have removed these weak teachers over the years.
Ontario, Canada: It takes many months for a principal in Ontario to even get close to getting an incompetent teacher removed. The principal interviewed stated, “It was very upsetting and I wouldn’t choose to do it again unless I absolutely had to.”
Between 2004 and 2009 there were only 27 teachers out of the nearly 200,000 licensed teachers in the Ontario College of Teachers terminated for their poor performance.
United Kingdom: The BBC News reported that only 18 United Kingdom (UK) teachers were removed for incompetence over a 40 year period of time. They also scored the point that up to 17,000 out of their 500,000 registered teachers were considered ‘not up to the job’ of teaching.
While teacher unions in various countries are often blamed for ‘protecting’ the poor teachers in their ranks, some of the teacher union leaders speak about the problem from their perspective
- An Alberta, Canada, faculty leader president suggested that the Teachers’ Association should not be blamed for the poor teachers who remain in their schools. He clearly stated that the school boards and their administrators should be stepping up to the plate rather than point the blame on the unions. He suggested these board members look into the mirror.
- A National Education Association (NEA) former president suggested that no incompetent teachers should be retained in a classroom. He further stated that the price for students is too high if they are kept teaching.
The need for Governing Board policies
Developing an effective system of teacher evaluations is one of the most important responsibilities of a governing board. The second important part of this responsibility is the power the boards have to enforce the system they have properly developed. This includes up to, and including, dismissal of teachers found unable, or refuse, to improve enough to continue.
Governing Boards powers must be granted by legislatures or leading organizations in countries in the United States and/or other countries. The power cannot, and should not, be delegated to administrators or other persons.
Boards find that personnel matters such as evaluation, recognition, and/or dismissal are the ones of greatest concern in their positions in K-12 and college and university levels.
Values for Governing Boards
This author has outlined several values that school system governing boards need to identify to give them direction in improving their teacher evaluation systems:
Value l: It is necessary for governing boards of school systems to set a goal of valuing quality teaching in every classroom. The action plan would then include having all non-tenured and tenured/long-term teachers evaluated.
Value 2: The Governing Board values the individual development needs of each of its teachers.
Value 3: The Governing Board supports an awards and recognition program for its outstanding teachers.
Value 4: The Governing Board values a strong stand for placing poorly performing teachers into a remedial plan for improvement, follow-up evaluation on the remedial plan, and dismissal after an appropriate time if the improvements are not all met.
These recommended values followed by action plans for each value identified will give school boards and their administrators a clear framework that each one of them should be able to develop and carry out responsible and accountable teacher evaluations. Excellent teachers, students, and parents will all benefit when poor and/or incompetent teachers are properly evaluated, given proper remediation of their weaknesses and/or removed when remediation fails .