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Why Is It So Difficult To Fire Bad Teachers?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the indeed-news-for-nerds dept.

Education 1322

Ant writes with this depressing story about how public schools sometimes work: "This six-page Los Angeles Times article shares its investigation to find 'the process [of firing poor teachers] so arduous that many school principals don't even try (One-page version), except in the very worst cases. Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare ...'"

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Simple answer (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809305)

Because there is so many bad school principals.

Re:Simple answer (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809621)

Nonsense, we have complained about our son's teacher many times. She gives them incorrect information and punishes them for what the previous class did. Many of the parents in the community have complained and even petitioned the local school board to fire her, however she is repeatedly found to be not at fault and her job is kept. California is suffering huge losses of teachers due to budget problems this year, and out of all the ones who were fired, the one or two bad apples aren't in the list.

It seems that just being a bad teacher isn't enough to have your teaching job pulled in California. All you need is some seniority and a union to back you up and you're not going anywhere... ever.

Re:Simple answer (2, Insightful)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809623)

Actually, I think the sad answer really is because you'd only need to replace the one you fire and its hard to find good teachers.

Probably there are also a lot of complaints from students who are actually not good and blame the teacher, so its a question of who judges the situation right?

Re:Simple answer (1)

Klintus Fang (988910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809631)

what can happen is that a bad teacher can hide behind bureaucratic obstacles once that teacher has seniority, or, even worse, such a teacher can (and sometimes will) threaten to sue the school district if the district tries to fire him/her.

most school districts do not have the financial resources or expertise to fight such a battle. so they chose not to.

Re:Simple answer (5, Informative)

mjb (8536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809749)

Because the teachers union is WAY too powerful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx4pN-aiofw

Public education... (5, Insightful)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809307)

"The erroneous assumption is to the effort that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence .... Nothing could be further from the truth." Not sure where that quote is from, but it's good and I had it lying around.

Re:Public education... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809361)

You're right. Public education is the effort of the government to institutionalize our young to prep them for factory or other menial jobs. Also it is used to make them obey authority and brain wash them to cultural "moral standards".

Re:Public education... (2, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809411)

You might take a long, hard look at your hypothesis, as the school system is essentially a liberal enclave.

Re:Public education... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809533)

Maybe higher education, but grade school is used to disenfranchise our youth and make sure they obey authority unquestioningly. Very little is taught in grade school, instead they make sure youth are ready for menial tasks like flipping burgers and counting cashier tills. "No Child Left Behind" should be called "No Education Located Here".

Re:Public education... (0, Flamebait)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809599)

Cut the teamism. Education has been fucked up long before NCLB. In fact, it is a liberal enclave and the left has used "do it for the children" as a means of gaining power for themselves and the teachers union for 40 years. We throw WAY too much money at education. Much of it doesn't go to the classroom and teachers where it should. Rather it goes to administration. Leftist feel-good cirriculums dominate and as such our kids learn to either throw a ball or drop fries. Science and math skills tank but we have happy little taxpayers who learn to vote in all the politically correct garbage they read in the "picture books" they were given in grade school. CUT the funding, limit the course work to what matters, fire administrators, and raise teachers' pay to attract our brightest to the field. Otherwise, stop bitching about education and stop using my tax dollars to fund this toilet.

Re:Public education... (5, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809693)

Leftist feel-good cirriculums dominate

Are you ignorant? First of all, the "feel-good" curricula (wow, incorrect spelling and incorrect use of the plural, is that because all those mean liberals didn't teach you correctly?) was mainly a right-wing strawman. Secondly, NCLB is pretty much the opposite of feel-good curricula, and it hasn't really helped matters, eh?

Support the Fair Tax. http://fairtax.org/ [fairtax.org] Promote peace, kill more bad guys.


Oh, guess you ARE ignorant.

Re:Public education... (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809711)

...the school system is essentially a liberal enclave.

So making eduction a right wing enclave would make it all better. Funny, but I didn't hear any ideas about actually improving education. Seems like if you had such a vaulted ideal of what education should look like, you'd have some suggestion for improvement. But all you do is dismiss the entire system with a massive generalization.

But then again, throwing rocks is the only thing you're good at, so I guess it would be futile to expect anything better.

Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809431)

SCENARIO #1: Take one teacher. Put her in a classroom of Japanese-American kids or Hungarian-American kids. They will do well because they are committed to learning.

SCENARIO #2: Put that same teacher in a classroom of African-American kids from Oakland, California. The kids will do poorly because African-American culture rejects learning -- and rejects Western culture in general.

In scenario #2, the teacher would be fired as a "bad" teacher. In scenario #1, the same teacher would get a bonus for producing such accomplished students.

Is there any reasonable and objective way to determine a teacher's performance that is independent of the students in her classroom?

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (2, Insightful)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809463)

SCENARIO #1: Take one teacher. Put her in a classroom of Japanese-American kids or Hungarian-American kids. They will do well because they are committed to learning.

SCENARIO #2: Put that same teacher in a classroom of African-American kids from Oakland, California. The kids will do poorly because African-American culture rejects learning -- and rejects Western culture in general.

In scenario #2, the teacher would be fired as a "bad" teacher. In scenario #1, the same teacher would get a bonus for producing such accomplished students.

Is there any reasonable and objective way to determine a teacher's performance that is independent of the students in her classroom?

It's a shame you will be modded troll for this due to perceived racism against african-americans, despite raising a very valuable point. Guess that's why you went AC, I don't blame ya.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809585)

Perceived racism? He could have just as easily made his point without ever bringing up race.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809685)

Race, or at least race-driven culture has everything to do with his example, and is true.

What's a trip to me is that you will find this in the current generation of students when generations as recent as their grandparents thought education and hard work were absolutely essential.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809709)

Are you stating that even if something is known, if it is not considered nice or politically correct it must not be discussed?

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (5, Insightful)

Jamamala (983884) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809719)

It's a shame you will be modded troll for this due to perceived racism against african-americans, despite raising a very valuable point. Guess that's why you went AC, I don't blame ya.

No, this is just genuine racism. There's nothing integral about being african-american that makes one reject learning.

racism, n
1: the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races
2: discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809489)

How the fuck has this blatant piece of bullshit racism gone unchecked for this long?

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809699)

Because it's oh-so politically fashionable here on Slashdot.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809583)

Is there any reasonable and objective way to determine a teacher's performance that is independent of the students in her classroom?

Yes, there is. Year-over-year progress measured by standardized tests.

Any chance that will happen? Not so much.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (1, Insightful)

caywen (942955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809673)

Are Japanese-American kids themselves so committed to learning, more so than African-American kids? Sounds to me it's more a parental issue than some kind of racial issue. Let's revisit this in 50 years when socioeconomic status equalizes a bit more, shall we?

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (4, Insightful)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809739)

That's not a _racial_ issue (i.e. genetics do not really play a role here), that's a _cultural_ issue.

And Japanese are not economically that much worse off than Americans.

Re:Difficult to Define a "Good" Teacher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809705)

Think I can "learn" in that class with the Japanese kids in it?

Re:Public education... (4, Interesting)

an.echte.trilingue (1063180) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809535)

It is from HL Mencken, The American Mercury, April, 1924. The sentiment goes back at least to JJ Rouseau.

Here is a great quote from the article:

Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don't make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.

Either the journalist is a product of the LA school system or the LA school system mandates that teachers show up late.

More to the point, however, is that this is actually not such a bad system, no matter what populist journalists wishing to stir up anti-(government|teacher's union) sentiment says. As somebody with managerial experience in the federal government, I can attest that establishing a pattern of misconduct is a very effective way to get people fired. However, it requires that administrators keep their paperwork in order. There has to be a written record in place establishing that the misconduct actually happened. This requirement is a good thing in government positions because it keeps people from getting fired for political reasons and thus helps prevent nepotism and cronyism. The horror stories that you hear about the impossibility of firing bad employees always come from inept administrators who could not be bothered to properly manage their personnel and want to blame the system for their failings.

Re:Public education... (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809635)

I appreciate that it must be hard to strike a fair balance of evidence when it comes to firing people, but just how would one make a specific record of incidents of misconduct when a teacher is simply crap at their job?

Not only is any direct measurement very subjective, an objective measurement (exam grades achieved by children) is skewed by so many factors it's not even funny and even brings in its own set of problems - it's more dependent on the children who happen to be in the class than the teacher to begin with, and since it is often used despite that it means that most teachers (even the good ones) are forced to teach to an exam syllabus rather than actually providing a rounded understanding of a subject.

Re:Public education... (3, Insightful)

leucadiadude (68989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809657)

insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.

Either the journalist is a product of the LA school system or the LA school system mandates that teachers show up late.

Looks more like YOU are a product of the LA school system. The reporters usage is correct. He is talking about a rule, i.e., the rule to show up on time.

Re:Public education... (3, Informative)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809743)

My personal theory is that it's to teach them to take standardized tests.
 
Drivers permit/license
SAT/ACT
GRE
Industry Certifications
Boards
 
That, or it's to teach people to work line shifts. Turn on, turn off. Do job a, switch to job b, switch to job c, then go home when the whistle sounds.
 
It's CLEARLY not designed for learning.

Is "why" a legitimate question? (5, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809329)

I think it's blatantly obvious, the NEA is exceptionally powerful and won't permit it.

        Brett

Re:Is "why" a legitimate question? (0, Troll)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809559)

Mod parent up.

Answering this question with any more than three letters is completely missing the forest for the trees.

Yet firing good teachers happens all the time... (2, Insightful)

Nakor BlueRider (1504491) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809339)

It's frustrating to see something like this, when we also see articles about innocent teachers being fired or prosecuted due to kids in their class sexting them. :\

Re:Yet firing good teachers happens all the time.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809445)

Most important thing is to keep everyone in line. Teachers' Union ensures that every member votes for the sanctioned candidates. The politicians then make sure there's no competition for the teachers (i.e., voucers and all that are strictly verboten). You get a good teacher or someone trying to make a difference, and you've got a dangerous person on your hands. They're not part of the "system". Of course, it's not nearly so well organized. But public monopolies like the US education system do have lives of their own.

Labor Economics (4, Interesting)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809341)

Seeing the result of poor education is an easy task. It's even easy to identify poor teachers by merit and/or performance... The difficulty comes in establishing universal standards that will do that by a set of static rules. Of course there are the pandemic issues with unions and so on. My spouse is a teacher, and several friends I graduated with are in education, and the story (at least in Colorado) is the same: The Union only steps in for members of the herd that are to be culled. In more... sane... states (our state is the lowest in Higher Education funding by several orders of magnitude) your mileage may vary.

Re:Labor Economics (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809393)

How about Students, give students an anonymous evaluation form to put their feelings of teachers on them, then when the time comes to get rid of unnecessary teachers, its easier to get rid of the ones where the students can't learn in. Because, most students can easily identify teachers they don't like and can't learn from, and face it, even if you have a PhD in mathematics, yet your algebra students are totally confused, you aren't doing your job as a teacher and should be let go.

Re:Labor Economics (3, Insightful)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809415)

In high school, I didn't learn a damn thing from my favorite teachers. If I could have replaced that famous picture of Nguyen getting shot in the face with my Math teacher I would have done so... BUT... I still use inverse operands every chance I get. Go figure.

Re:Labor Economics (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809701)

But math is a strange subject. In order to use it, you have to do a lot of pointless crap. In required math classes, teachers should not try to fail students for not understanding an obscure math concept 75% of them won't ever think about again. There are many, many, many, jobs and disciplines where the use of a calculator, a good spreadsheet program, and basic math is all you will ever need in the way of math. For more advanced math, sure, be picky, but for the majority of us, the obscure math formula you say to memorize only will help us on the final, not ever in real life.

Re:Labor Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809433)

How would you have evaluated your English teacher?

Re:Labor Economics (1)

story645 (1278106) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809729)

From a learning standpoint:
Can you formulate a coherent thesis? Can you support that thesis with evidence from the text? Does your argument make sense within the frame work of the text? (Does it fit in with the period the book was written in/the philosophy/school of the text/etc.?) If given any random text, can you deconstruct it on the basis of theme/characterization/setting/tone/mood/diction/symbolism/structure/plot/etc? Can you explain how a technique is used to explore/support the theme of a book? Can you deconstruct a text? English is really all about learning to parse text correctly and communicate effectively.

From a grading point of view:
Is the teacher marking down for grammar? Faulty arguments? Is their an objective grading rubric? A bad teacher marks down any argument he or she doesn't like, even it it is valid and well supported. A good teacher points out the flaws in badly constructed arguments, even ones that argue a point the teacher likes.

Re:Labor Economics (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809663)

Many schools already have this. The problem is, students are either too lazy to do this, or intentionally give terrible comments about teachers they dont like, regardless of that teacher's teaching ability. As someone who is only a few years out of high school, I know you cant trust any student evaluation of a teacher, because it will not give you any bearing on the teacher's true effectiveness. Not to mention it puts too much power in the hands of the students. Ex. A teacher has to constantly discipline a group of 5-7 students who disrupt class. When it comes time to do evaluations, these students all give the teacher terrible reviews. And, since it is done anonymously, there is no way to tell which students gave the evaluations, so there is no way to determine their bias against the teacher. The teacher is then fired because of those bad reviews, simply because some students didnt like the teacher disciplining them.

Re:Labor Economics (4, Insightful)

bwalling (195998) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809681)

The problem with this is that students are generally not in a good position to evaluate their educational needs. Many middle and high school students prefer to not be challenged and to do as little work as possible. A likely outcome of a student rating system is that teachers who offer easy classes that require little work will be seen as the highest quality educators.

Some of my most difficult teachers in high school are among those that in retrospect I recognize to have done the most for me. Only a few of those would I have evaluated so highly during my schooling.

Re:Labor Economics (1)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809679)

As a HS teacher, I see similar things. In addition, you run into a few other issues:
 
1) How do you determine bad? What's your cutoff? Who judges? (Most assessments are done by administrators, who don't have a teaching license, and may have never taught.) How do you reduce the noise generated by small sample sizes? (20-30 students in a class)
2) And replace them with who? We're losing teachers all the time. Last I checked, the average age of teachers was like 55. We struggle to get ANYONE to teach. Is nobody/untrained/uncertified better than someone who sucks, but has a basic training?
 
Ultimately, we're screwed. We've been seduced by standardized testing as a way to assess student learning, when it's clear and well documented that it does not do this. We're requiring that the "expertise" of students be assessed, but refuse to hire experts to assess it. Into this void steps the snake-oil of standardized testing, and the mess we have today.
 
Ultimately, teaching isn't standard, nor is learning, nor are students. To assess these things requires creative, flexible experts, and those people cost money. We've decided we can't spend that sort of cash, so we've gone with standardized testing and any body, no matter how bad, to dispense content.
 
In short, as a teacher I'm being asked to prepare students for a standardized test. My teaching ability is determined based on how well they do on the state exam. Because I want to be a good teacher, I teach more methods than content. But if you judge me based on the state exam I very well may suck as a teacher. So do you fire me?

News for nerds? (-1, Troll)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809343)

Or liberal propaganda?

Slashdot is sometimes quite sickening in this aspect, venturing beyond their intended area(news for nerds) to score some ad-impressions.

Re:News for nerds? (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809365)

I think most nerds have had bad experiences with teachers in public school. Because either teachers count off for the most ridiculous things, have a personal bias against some things (and will fail you if you think otherwise), have a personal vendetta against students who (rightfully) correct them, or many other things that are wrong with our public school system.

Re:News for nerds? (1)

amilo100 (1345883) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809447)

Well... They can maybe start by firing the fuckers that do not pitch up for class!

And the idea in most countries with unions that teachers should get the same wage is idiotic - the more talented you are, the higher your wage should be!

Re:News for nerds? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809475)

Thats one of the problems, theres no real way of measuring talent. I've had teachers with many years of college who can't teach while I've learned many things from the entry level teacher thats fresh out of college.

Re:News for nerds? (3, Insightful)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809677)

That's no accident: that entry level teacher is still motivated and idealistic, and he's willing to spend a lot of extra time. Give him a few years of teaching, and he'll lose all that.

Re:News for nerds? (5, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809539)

"I think most nerds have had bad experiences with teachers in public school. Because either teachers count off for the most ridiculous things, have a personal bias against some things (and will fail you if you think otherwise), have a personal vendetta against students who (rightfully) correct them, or many other things that are wrong with our public school system."

Well, this isn't surprising. As someone who has been in high-school and also someone who grew up in a family of teachers I can safely say that this is inevitable. Nice teachers will simply be bullied untill they give in. High-school kids are highly observant of the level of authority a teacher has and once they see a weakness they can be quite merciless.

The people who are left are either split between people who have some natural authority and dickheads(the kind you read about in this article). A lot of teachers see students correcting them as an assault on their authority and they are partly right about this. Yes, the student may be right but admitting this may weaken the position the teacher has or aspires to have and thereby he has to carefully maneuvre between admitting his faults and maitaining order in the classroom(and over the students in general).

Remember that a high-school student spends around 5 years in a high-school but a teacher needs to maintain his position many times longer and that can cause the teacher to become ridgid. Personally, I see this as in inevitability though through good planning the damage can be minimized.

Re:News for nerds? (1)

Gerafix (1028986) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809591)

This would be alleviated if they didn't insist on stuffing 30 or 40 kids into a single classroom.

Re:News for nerds? (5, Insightful)

SnapShot (171582) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809721)

This would also be alleviated if there was a license required before people could become parents.

For all the back-and-forth that's going to take place in this article, the fundamental truth is that shitty parents generally lead to shitty students.

Re:News for nerds? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809643)

Nice teachers will simply be bullied untill they give in. High-school kids are highly observant of the level of authority a teacher has and once they see a weakness they can be quite merciless.

They don't need to be nice as in "I'm going to bake the class cookies" but rather nice as in "I'm not going to assign large amounts of meaningless work". I've had several teachers who were quite authoritative so people knew not to screw with them, but on the other hand they weren't total idiots, they admitted when they were wrong, didn't assign large amounts of meaningless work, didn't try to fail students, and were generally pleasant to learn from.

The people who are left are either split between people who have some natural authority and dickheads(the kind you read about in this article). A lot of teachers see students correcting them as an assault on their authority and they are partly right about this. Yes, the student may be right but admitting this may weaken the position the teacher has or aspires to have and thereby he has to carefully maneuvre between admitting his faults and maitaining order in the classroom(and over the students in general).

But by admitting faults you don't lose any authority and gain respect. Some of the things were such obvious mistakes that even with solid evidence they didn't believe. For example, a high school science teacher tried to tell us that blood in veins were blue. When we used evidence to prove that he was wrong, he dismissed it and kept telling us that veins were blue to spite us.

Remember that a high-school student spends around 5 years in a high-school but a teacher needs to maintain his position many times longer and that can cause the teacher to become ridgid. Personally, I see this as in inevitability though through good planning the damage can be minimized.

The one thing they can do, is treat high school students like adults. They aren't meant to be told to do this and this and this, but rather use reasoning and logic and such.

Authority shouldn't come before truth (2, Insightful)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809727)

In my personal opinion the minute a teacher decides: "Correcting false information is less important than maintaining my own aura of authority," they stop being an educator and start down the road to becoming a tyrant in a teapot. Personally I would argue the reason high school students are so merciless is because by the time they encounter even one nice teacher they've been exposed to far too many of the "dickheads" and don't know how to interact with someone who is genuinely trying to teach them.

Re:News for nerds? (1)

speedtux (1307149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809655)

I see. So how do you propose who should determine who's right or wrong? Students hold a vote on it? There's a special commission on truth in the classroom?

Yes, teachers are wrong sometimes and they make mistakes. Yes, you may lose points because of it or be hassled over it. That's life. The same thing will happen at your job. And if you're human, you'll be doing exactly the same thing to others, including your own children.

If we insist on perfect teachers, there won't be any at all. The job pays poorly enough and is stressful enough that, frankly, schools need to be happy with who they can get.

Re:News for nerds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809367)

On what planet is this liberal propaganda?

Re:News for nerds? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809467)

Everything that doesn't praise George W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh is lib'rul propaganda! Haven't you figured that out?

Re:News for nerds? (1, Insightful)

snwyvern (1334877) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809395)

I'm a card carrying, gun shooting, cigarette smoking anti-liberal. I read Slashdot at least once a day, and do not feel that "Slashdot" has an agenda. Posters and contributors may, and that should be an easy thing to use your noodle to differentiate... Unless you believe everything you read.

*glare*

Two words... (5, Informative)

jdb2 (800046) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809345)

...Teacher's unions.

jdb2

Bad? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809347)

From TFA:

Polanco looked at the cuts and said they "were weak," according to witness accounts in documents filed with the state. "Carve deeper next time," he was said to have told the boy.

"Look," Polanco allegedly said, "you can't even kill yourself."

The boy's classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery, according to the witnesses.

"See," Polanco was quoted as saying, "even he knows how to commit suicide better than you."

The Los Angeles school board, citing Polanco's poor judgment, voted to fire him.

But Polanco, who contended that he had been misunderstood, kept his job. A little-known review commission overruled the board, saying that although the teacher had made the statements, he had meant no harm.

I like this guy! Give him a raise!

Troll or Not? (1)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809723)

The comments were from TFA - in fact, it left out this lead-in paragraph:

The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.

He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after an attempt at suicide.

On the basis of the idea that the teacher decided to step off of the politically-correct, baby-em-all bus - and did decide to try to scare the kid straight - I like him too. More teachers have gotten further with a little ridicule than with nurturing, and each and every one us knows it.

Or - did the AC above simply try to get a rise by advocating death?

I elect the former.

One word (2, Insightful)

Rich Acosta (1010447) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809353)

Tenure. This doesn't solely apply to public schools either, it's become a problem in higher education as well. All too often there is a professor that has been around for longer than some of his students have been alive, isn't doing his job as he should, but yet the university isn't able (or willing) to do much, due to the hassle of getting rid of a tenured professor.

Re:One word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809641)

We had a computer science lecturer who was always plugging Apple saying anything was easier on them. He was asked how you performed a certain task and he said he did not know.
Another guy with a Ph D in Mathematics was talking about Chili Con Carne With Chicken and was told that this did not make sense replied that he had a Ph D in Mathematics and just continued on waffling about nothing.

As to the Gender Studies morons who got the entire Library budget spent on their own narrow field for the benefit of 20 full time students (and the poor sods who had this junk as a "mandatory option") which they were able to do by trading this for advancing someone else elsewhere I say the answer also involves the two words : Agency Theory.

Re:One word (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809651)

Comparing tenure of public school teachers with tenure of professors of universities is like comparing apples to oranges. Are you aware what it takes to obtain tenure at a well respected university today relative to public school teachers?

Blame teachers of course (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809357)

And we have serious shortage of teachers with ineffectual administrations, apathetic parents and disinterested communities who want someone else to fix *their* schools they don't bother to get involved with.

But, as usual, let's focus on the teachers.

Which is why I didn't go into teaching.

It's the bueracracy we hate ... (4, Insightful)

Xylaan (795464) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809377)

... but somehow we keep creating.

The problem is that we don't want to trust people in authority to make decisions, so we come up with a process or committee or something to ensure that one person can't make the hard decisions. But time and time again, it's shown that if no one can make hard decisions, no one will.

And while it's probably going to beat the hell out of my karma for it, I recommend The Death of Common Sense [amazon.com] , by Philip K. Howard. It basically goes into examples of how our unwavering belief that a legal processes can sort through the mess impartially causes all sorts of unexpected results.

As soon as the authority to make a decision is lost, how can bad behavior be punished?

Re:It's the bueracracy we hate ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809497)

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

Supply and Demand (1)

Judinous (1093945) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809389)

I'd say that one of the main problems is that it is close to impossible to attract competent replacements with the incredibly low salaries that we offer to teachers. Many(most) teachers in the public school system are nothing but glorified babysitters. You get what you pay for.

Re:Supply and Demand (1)

TimTucker (982832) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809437)

Are you serious? Here in Michigan there are so many people that go into teaching that many have to leave the state to find a job.

Re:Supply and Demand (1)

chateauxtech (1474219) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809521)

How much would be an acceptable salary be? $30,000 would $60,000 be acceptable or would it cost $120,000 for a good teacher. I have a feeling that no matter what you pay it will never be enough.

Re:Supply and Demand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809575)

We don't pay our policeman much either, so by this logic we should tolerate bad cops as well. Maybe rampant corruption in the police department will teach us that we need to pay them more. However, maybe it will just have the opposite affect as well.

Re:Supply and Demand (1)

Not The Real Me (538784) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809753)

You must not live in California. In California policemen, and firemen, make between $60K and $120K a year and have some of the best public service benefits anywhere in the U.S.

Re:Supply and Demand (1)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809597)

Bingo. Get rid of every bad teacher in every school system in one fell swoop, and what have you got? Utopia? Nope. A school system where the average class size is 67.

People claim that the union rules that favor seniority over performance discourage competent young people from becoming teachers. I've known dozens of current and former teachers, and they've never cited this as a reason for wanting to leave the profession. On the other hand, getting paid less than anyone else they know with a graduate degree, having to cope with students who don't want to be there and who were failed by the system a decade before you got them, having very little choice in their teaching methods and curriculum, being 'voluntold' for various after-hours activities without compensation, while not having any control or flexibility over your schedule drives a lot more off.

This is particularly evident in the math, science and technology fields. Even if you really enjoy teaching these subjects, there are very few incentives to go into teaching and a lot of disincentives. Until we make the occupation competitive with work in the private sector, it's going to continue to be marked by shortages and poor performers.

Re:Supply and Demand (2, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809647)

Incredibly low? TFA quoted the median salary for a teacher in their mid 30s as $74,000 a year. I'm sure many people would be happy to trade their "incredibly low" salary for that incredibly low salary.

At a University, tenure means everything... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809391)

At a University, getting tenure means you bring in money, and unless you are really, really bad, you don't have to be able to teach.

One Comp. Sci. professor with tenure would read us the textbook word for word in the lectures. Ask a question? He would just repeat the last sentence three or four times until you realized he could not teach.

The class Teaching Assistant was even worse, he could not understand English beyond what was covered in the book. Forget about asking complex concepts, he could barely understand simple questions.

But the prof. had tenure, he brought in money, he published papers, so it did not matter that he could not teach.

Worst Class Ever...

make em want to leave (4, Insightful)

Bloater (12932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809399)

Give 'em a broom instead of a class. They'll get the point.

Yet Another Reason... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809401)

Why the Kalifornia Republic is such a screwed-up state.

One word (0, Redundant)

microbee (682094) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809405)

Union

who defines bad? (3, Insightful)

ifeelswine (1546221) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809425)

all of the union, lobbying issues notwithstanding, who exactly defines bad and how exactly do you measure results? no child left behind was an attempt at quantifying the teachers task and failed miserably. teachers taught to the test and teachers were considered good if they got more kids to pass the test than their peers. this was at the expense of educating the kids. do you leave it up to the children and parents to define who is good and who is bad? take the math teacher who makes you do math problems like a a drill instructor makes recruits do pushups. is he good or bad? when you're in high school you dread the busy work, as do your parents who are forced to do your homework for you. but when you're a freshman in an engineering program, you may look back and realize that education truly is what's left when you've forgotten everything you learned.

two reasons. (5, Insightful)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809449)

first is tenure.

second reason is unions.

Broward County schools are filled with bad teachers. The unions keep them working.

recently a broward teacher had a delusional episode in the classroom. she had a pair of scissors and was threatening a student shouting about demons.

the union not only kept her job, but she's coming back to the classroom (albeit at a different school).

Bad teachers are a bit like molesting priests. They get moved around schools when people complain about them.

Re:two reasons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809471)

[citation needed]

Is it bad teachers??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809459)

I don't think this is limited to just teachers. It is so difficult to fire anyone (in some states more than others).

blame the teachers, blame the unions (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809481)

for all the fucks, who washed down a trillion dollar on Wall Street... hey wait, those were no public school peeps, were they? How many of them were fired for ripping off tax payers around the globe, taking away their funds for public education from the ones who's daddy can't afford Ivy league treatment for his little Georgie boy? Yeah, those illiterate bad bankers, they must be members of some union, which makes it almost impossible to fire them, "except in the very worst cases". WTF are we talking about, kids?

It's Simple (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809491)

There are too many of them. Whatever tests they have to take to become authorized to teach aren't working.
I've had maybe 5 good teachers, out of say the 7 new teachers I get each semester for the last 10 or so years. ~5/700.
Of course there were some ok teachers, some nice teachers, but only 7 or so that could actually teach.

All the rest were either teachers so they could feel smart, teachers so they could order people around, or a few were teachers just so they could get money.

I'm in highschool, and I have a teacher who doesn't attend class when she doesn't feel like it. Sometimes she hires a substitute even when she's in the room messing with the gradebook but not grading anything (or watching youtube, she seems to enjoy doing that during work hours as well). She doesn't really teach us anything. The worst part is, most people who take Spanish 2A in our highschool were not doing well in spanish (otherwise they'd have taken the faster class in middle school), so a bunch of Ds on the midterm doesn't turn any heads.

The whole class constantly complains about her to the principle, but nothing is ever done. If you walk in to "guidance" and start to say
"My teacher isn't prepar-"
The staff will quickly cut you off, as they've heard it before.
"Oh you mean Mrs. [removed name]?"

Re:It's Simple (4, Funny)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809687)

I've had maybe 5 good teachers, out of say the 7 new teachers I get each semester for the last 10 or so years. ~5/700.

Apparently, none of those 5 were mathematics teachers, I'm guessing.

The whole class constantly complains about her to the principle, but nothing is ever done.

Nor were they English teachers, it'd seem ...

Tenure is the key (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809495)

The article summary is incomplete. The title of the article is "Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task"
          Well, the problem, and the solution, are right there.

          Tenure is intended for university professors mainly; it intentionally makes it harder to fire a tenured person, so they can "push the boundaries" a bit in their classes.. without the fear of being fired for petty political reasons.

          The universities do not just give out tenure to every new professor, they make sure they are competent first. If the California schools have *tenured* teachers that can't teach, that is the problem RIGHT THERE. Don't give tenure to a teacher until they know they can teach. Simple as that.

Broken systems (1)

GlL (618007) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809501)

Let's start out by saying that there is plenty of blame to go around. How much time are we going to waste trying to figure out whose fault the broken educational systems are?

Instead, lets try to redesign the systems. This is basic problem solving:

1) What are the goals we have?
                - Universal Literacy?
                - Scientific awareness?
2) What resources do we have available to reach those goals?

3) Put a plan together using the resources available that includes analysis not only of desired student outcomes, but desired teacher outcomes as well.

I guess it is easier to play the blame game. Personally, I wonder what the turnaround time from good teacher to bitter burnt out husk working towards retirement is?

This is only one side of the story. (5, Insightful)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809505)

Part of the problem is unions. Another part is the massive bureaucracy. But many times, it's to protect the good teachers from vindictive parents.

I come from a private school in Toronto (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809515)

Which had, at one point, literally gotten in trouble for teaching beyond the curriculum. Apparently, Grade 9 students are "children" and cannot understand the concept of acceleration.

Well... (1)

Zapotek (1032314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809523)

..it's not easy to prove that a teacher can't teach.
Where are going to base this on? Some students that can't solve math problems?

I've had my share of bad teachers, and being 20y.o. the memories are still vivid.
In my experience teachers support each other more than they should and turn their head the other way when one of them messes up.

I've seen math teachers copying the teaching books' answers from another book which has the answers.
English class was fun....it was like I were the one who was teaching.
Anyways, I can go oooon and on about this forever so I'll shut up now.

All the above refer to my Greek school but I assume the situation's kind of generic.

Unions (0, Redundant)

ffejie (779512) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809529)

One word answer: Unions.

Because for every bad teacher that deserves (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809553)

Because for every bad teacher that deserves to be thrown out, there's a good teacher dedicated to such crazy concepts as teaching evolution in a science classroom, and the evangelicals aren't just going to sit there and take all those facts getting put inside their childrens' heads. So the process for removal has to be slow as possible- otherwise the highly motivated fundamentalists could push out anyone they choose whenever they want. The result is that genuinely bad teachers must be dragged through a process that can take years.

There, was that so difficult?

Because 'bad' is subjective. (4, Insightful)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809579)

Wanna fire that "bad" teacher for teaching evolution? Great, make it easier to do so. I agree there are bad teachers, but the fact that you don't like them doesn't necessarily mean they are indeed bad teachers.

you know (2, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809603)

As a product of the public school system who is quite happy with the education he received, let me try and add some balance to the usual slashdot anti-teacher, anti-union, right-wing libertarian groupthink.

The purpose of tenure is to protect teachers from unfair termination, not to protect bad teachers. If a teacher is underperforming there is usually a process to get rid of them, even if tenured, only most administrators are too lazy to go through it. The whole system is designed precisely so a school principal can't just terminate someone because IN THEIR JUDGMENT, the teacher is doing a lousy job. Personally I'd trust the judgment of most teachers over most school administrators.

And when it comes to education, it's hard to create metrics to accurately measure success. And don't even try to argue that those idiotic standardized tests measure much. Are we going to punish a teacher because most of their students failed a standardized English test? What if more than half of their students don't SPEAK English? What if the teacher had to teach 40 kids in one classroom? There are bad teachers, but it's not always easy to measure which ones are bad, and which ones are just either lucky or unlucky.

And by the way, anyone who thinks that some all-powerful teacher's union is preventing success is just ignorant. The teacher's unions are constantly undercut and overwhelmed by legislatures and city and state governments. If the teacher's unions were so powerful, then why do teacher's make so little?

Same as any other profession (4, Insightful)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809605)

I've worked as a computer programmer for over 20 years, and I have never seen or heard of any programmer being fired for incompetence, no matter the magnitude.

As far as I'm concerned, teachers deserve our support, and I think all of the bitching is just a smokescreen to support cutting education funding, and a mind-trick to turn people against unions.

It's hard to hire new people in this economy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809613)

You don't fire the one's you have, because you're not allowed to replace them. The schoolboard just increases class size. This year my niece's class had 45 kids. Of course, we live in a lower income neighborhood. If you go across town to the rich kids homes they're 23 to a class.

Firing "Bad Teachers" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27809619)

Well fist I teach middle school in the inner city (The bronx) its kinda hard to teach kids who dont want to learn shit. When you look at the amount of kids who graduate to high school and cant even read a news paper its a sorry pitiful shame. Here in NYC the kids have more power than the teacher who teach them. How can I teach when kids tell you fuck you and threaten to get you fired every day ? and Like one of the previous posters said. The African American kids dont want to learn nothing in my community their parents are illiterate so there is a high chance they will become illiterate. These parents dont participate in any school activities and the only time they come to the school is when their kids are hurt or want to sue the schools. Meanwhile all the foreign kids pass with flying colora.

Why can't we fire teachers? (1)

thearkitex (1420577) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809659)

Two words: Teachers' Unions.

Fire them school-by-school (2, Interesting)

wytten (163159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809669)

I just had a conversation this weekend about a policy tried with some success in Chicago. When an entire school has an egregious record of underperforming, fire everyone in the building and start over. Make them re-apply for their jobs. (I tried searching for an article to support this story just now, but I couldn't find one.)

Small percentage of teachers, but common problem (1)

DesertJazz (656328) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809671)

As a teacher I have to say I think that it is an incredibly common problem for every school to have someone that isn't being as effective of a teacher as they could be (read in some cases awful and idiotic). In my experience it tends to be the teachers that have been in the system for a long time, most likely tenured, who are protected just by the length of time they teach. Many times these 'teachers' spend their time as place holders, completely ineffective as teachers, and often times as people that pull down the morale of the whole teaching staff. Knowing that someone is a terrible teacher, but gets to continue to teach year after year, doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the schools to many people.

That being said, in my experience it's ONE teacher in the whole school (at most two in a large school). Not a problem at a level that should cause people to lose hope in the system. They're there, and we're unfortunately generally stuck with them unless they really screw up. Which happens sometimes. But, for every one case like this we get so much bad press that it causes people to make their snide comments about the rest of the school's employees. Myself, and most of the teachers I know, all give more time to these students than anyone ever acknowledges. There's no right answer right now, but the evaluation systems in education are definitely a spot that needs re-examined in many places.

A solution to fixing education (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809741)

It's really rare to find a parent who doesn't love their kids and care deeply about their education. One of the problems I see is really bad school districting policy. I believe the people within a district ought to be able to declare on their tax forms that they want the portion of their tax dollars allocated towards public schools to be allocated towards the schools in *their* district. It makes no sense to me that an economically challenged areas should have any of their tax dollars going towards white collar school districts. That deprives them of the opportunity to improve their own situation. We owe those who have less the ability to target their own resources towards their own quality of life.

Obvious--Teachers' Unions (5, Interesting)

Brian_Ellenberger (308720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809747)

Its easy. Teachers' Unions have no incentive to do anything but gain as much money and power for the teachers as possible. They are not there for the students. Students don't vote or pay dues to the union.

Unfortunately, boards of education have been fairly powerless. There is this myth of the "Virtuous Teacher" who is perfect in all ways, makes minimum wage, and would solve all the worlds problems if only they had a little more resources. This is reinforced by the media, both in moves and TV as well as reporters. The truth is that teachers are regular people, there are good and bad ones. But if you try to stand up to the union, you are demonized as an "evil teacher hater". Nevermind the fact that test scores haven't gone up despite hundreds of billions of dollars in spending increases. Or the fact that we spend over $12,000 PER STUDENT in Atlanta and D.C., two of the lowest performing school districts in the country!

I have alot of respect for teachers. In fact, I have often thought about going into teaching High School after I retire as a way of giving back. I would not have made it to where I am without the exceptional work of many caring teachers. But I also had to put up with more than a few worthless, incompetent teachers who didn't care one bit about actually teaching. They came in with no preparation, read straight out of the book, and gave completely worthless exams. It was absolute torture having to sit there for 60-90 minutes a day, every day, with someone getting paid to waste my time. Back in High School myself and many others wondered how they could keep their jobs. Now I know.

Hopefully the tide is turning. If a paper like the LA Times is criticizing the union there maybe hope yet. We now need some boards to stand up to the unions.

Is this just USA? (3, Interesting)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 5 years ago | (#27809757)

Why is it that I get the impression that teaching in the USA is pretty much awful? It seems like teachers are pretty much universally demonised and hated, come across as petty dictators of their classrooms.

As a teacher myself of 11 years (UK, Science) I can say that this is not the situation here. Sure, some teachers are disliked more than others - it goes with the job - but by and large (and I mean 95%) we work well with our students and they work well with us. We enjoy each others interaction in the classroom and around school, have a laugh and learn some interesting stuff.

We don't go around picking on kids and watching youtube instead of teaching. What kind of pride in your job would that give?

I don't have any experience of the US high school system but it seems to have fallen apart for the majority of kids. Is this, sadly, the case? Or have teachers been singled out as a scapegoat for the failings of US society? I genuinely can't believe that American teachers are so universally awful.
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