Can Teacher Quality Really Improve If Districts -- And Reformers -- Keep Ignoring Evaluation and Tenure Issues? Probably Not.

For years, administrators and school reformers alike have shied away from dealing with the issue of weeding out ineffective teachers, choosing instead to work on other, seemingly more important and less intractable issues. Recruiting. Induction. Mentoring.

I don't blame them. Compared to tenure and review issues, other problems like recruiting and keeping new teachers seem much less daunting -- and notably don't require taking on teacher unions or collective bargaining agreements.

But this week a series of articles from downstate Illinois shed some new light on the problem (Study: Tenure means job security PJ Star). And on Friday a Tribune editorial weighed in on the need for action (Protecting mediocre teachers). Notably, the IEA responded, but nothing so far from Marilyn Stewart of the CTU -- or any of the folks working on teaching quality issues.


Now, many will take this as an attack on teachers, or as making a mountain out of a molehill. And certainly, there are lots of folks out there who -- the NTP, RNT, the designers of the Board's Human Capital Initiave, etc. -- who seem to think that they can make serious progress on education issues without stepping on this particular third rail. The silence is understandable. It's a remarkably tough issue. There's a long and frustrating history of efforts to make more effective evaluation and review.

From where I sit, however (safely on the sidelines), making the review and evaluation of teachers is a key part of the rest of the teacher quality puzzle. How do you get and keep good teachers if they see poor ones skating by all around them? How do you pay teachers more while there's so much worry about the deadwood in the teaching corps? How do you revamp urban education without addressing the collective bargaining agreement, which has in Chicago gone pretty much untouched for nearly a decade?

The answer? You don't.
My feeble-minded solution: Bring back the peer review and evaluation programs of the 90s that Al Shanker promoted. Whatever happened to them, anyway?


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