|Students Protesting Teacher Firings courtesy of WashPost|
In my short tenure as a teacher I think one of the most inspiring and promising aspects I have seen in education are the dedicated teachers. Surprised?? Many people outside the school system have relentlessly attacked teachers, especially in DC. I no longer read comments in response to the 241 teacher firings because they are laden with uniformed opinions about a very flawed system. Teachers are blamed for the lack of student achievement, but doesn't it seem in some ways that Rhee is just placing the blame elsewhere? Despite all the firings the DC-CAS scores just keep dropping. Wanna check? DC-CAS 2010 scores available here.
While admittedly Rhee has also fired many administrators it seems to be teachers who receive the brunt of her firings. The result of the new IMPACT evaluations led to the recent firing of 241 teachers (I believe 180 were directly a result of the evaluations) and put many other teachers on the chopping block. While I don't think I could argue as effectively against teachers being unfairly assessed as Prof. Aaron Pallas, I wonder what happened to the administrative accountability?
While teachers employment is now more closely tied with student achievement on standardized testing, it is important to ask what role administration has in raising achievement and if it is possible for a teacher to succeed with a failing administration? While working at Winston (a prominent failing Southeast school) I saw administrative chaos and incompetence. An air of order was feigned for Chancellor Rhee's visit, but the everyday management was negligible. Despite the fact that as a first year teacher I had negative support, I gained a great deal from other new teachers, as well as veterans. While I thankfully no longer have to endure the punishment of working at Winston many of my former students still do, under the same ineffective administration. A slightly KGB-esque administration whose primary interest was not in actual student achievement, but in keeping their own asses out of the fire Rhee is setting ablaze to DCPS.
An effective administration is equally important as the actual teachers in the classroom. Ask any teacher who has had a horrible administrative experience like my own. It forces inexperienced teachers to reinvent the wheel and it makes veteran teachers frustrated by the lack of cooperation they are receiving. While I have had some good administrators (who I could count on one hand) there are just far too many who have too little classroom experience and are simply too power hungry, unrelenting in their beliefs and unwilling to be open to the knowledge, ideas and experience that their teachers have.
To put it bluntly, it is far more difficult for a teacher to succeed with a failing administration. While I do not have statistics to back the claim, I would be willing to bet that more often than not instituting better qualified and trained administration would be more effective than mass firings of teachers who show themselves dedicated through their commitment to this crazy, messed up system that is DCPS.