The big problem with the efforts of schools to fire teachers is that schools have no unbiased, comprehensive system for evaluating teachers. The principal alone is responsible, and usually bases evaluations on very little classroom observation. Few incompetent teachers are targeted; the targets are mostly people who made the mistake of going against the grain. (And we wonder why education reform is so difficult.)
Click HERE to see all posts on evaluating teachers.
The Crime of Teaching Too Long
By Susan Brinchman, San Diego
Letter to Voice of San Diego
July 02, 2009
What is little understood is that the accusations against these teachers are often entirely false - it is a way to get rid of union members, union reps, and older teachers who pull larger salaries. There was an all out war on those groups in the past ten years in SDUSD. The teachers languish at home, waiting for a hearing in a kangaroo court, with charges that range from criminal to those that would cause loss of a credential, completely setup by the district's attorneys and administration. The principals and admins learned how to do this - as a cost-saving measure and way to break the union. It was legal and with the help of the broken legal system, which could cost innocent teachers a hundred or two hundred thousand easily, only to lose, it was a despicable and discriminatory act repeated over and over. The teachers who were taken off the job waited, often, quite upset, when all they wanted was to be back at work and be treated with respect for the good job they were previously doing.
To read about this in depth, buy Janice Howes' The Black Hole in the Blueprint, available on Amazon.com. She is a local, highly successful, talented teacher who was set up to lose her job and credentials. Her crime? Teaching into her 60's.
A READER'S COMMENT:
Suggesting that School Principals falsely accuse, lie, or otherwise commit felonies against older teachers "as a cost-saving measure " is a bit theatrical. Mean-spirited hatchet jobs like this do nothing to gain support for teachers. Does the teacher's union support this position?
Posted by Ontheoutsidelookingin
MAURA LARKINS RESPONSE:
Have you ever heard of the Milgram experiments? Milgram proved that roughly 50% of ordinary, nice people will do just about anything that an authority figure tells them to do. Schools have authority figures (superintendents) who sometimes tell ordinary, nice principals to get rid of some teachers. The idea is to get rid of the incompetent teachers, but how does the principal decide which teachers deserve a pink slip? The principals know they will be rewarded even if they don't bother to carefully evaluate the teachers they choose.
This was made clear in testimony in the Danielle Cozaihr case in San Diego. The principal had walked through Ms. Cozaihr's classroom on a handful of occasions, not stopping to observe, and if he did make any notes about Cozaihr, he threw them away. He did not sign up Ms. Cozaihr for available training for new teachers. Why didn't superintendent Lowell Billings impress upon principals that they had to do these things as part of district policy? Billings apparently wanted principals to fire teachers rather than improve the teachers' performance. Principal Alex Cortes fired another teacher at the same time as Cozaihr. Click HERE for all Cozaihr posts.
In the infrequent situation in which a teacher demands a hearing, a new authority figure gets involved--the lawyer. Insurance company lawyers are generally paid to do what it takes to win. Sadly, that sometimes requires that principals give false testimony.
Amazingly, one principal in Virginia was actually indicted for perjury, but the court decided that he had not been required by law to take an oath, so he couldn't be prosecuted. The problem in school hearings is that it's often impossible to tell the difference between a true accusation and a false accusation. Witnesses, in fear of losing their jobs, tend to either not show up for hearings or to say what the district wants them to say. We need a system that gets rid of bad teachers without requiring lawyer involvement, and evaluations should be done by outsiders who are not under political pressure.