Talking about competence

At Mr. AB’s underenrolled school, two very good teachers — “bright spots of energy and competence in a dismal landscape of apathy and incapability” — were let go. They had the least seniority.

(The principal) spoke of their dedication and competence, and said that it made him sad to see them leave while looking at what was allowed to remain in our classrooms. He recognized his own fault in not being tougher on the less competent teachers on our staff and said that this experience was going to help him change.

Normally, teacher competence isn’t discussed, Mr. AB says.

When three-quarters of my 5th graders cannot fluently subtract, there needs to be frank talk about how we, the teachers, are failing our students. We need to take the next step. We need to name names. We need to make our failing teaches face up to their litany of Fs just as we heap those marks upon our failing students. Firing teachers for incompetence is difficult but it can be done. Creating a climate where the incompetent are not welcome is much less difficult but it must be done.

The teachers who were let go found jobs at other schools. He doesn’t expect they will return.

About Joanne


  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    tenure is an idea that didn’t pay off.

  2. oh, it paid off, make no mistake, just not for the students or current system.

    It was an important reform in yesteryear, but is unable to evolve.

  3. Chris, do you have anything to back that up? Reason I ask is that tenure sounds way too much like a union wet-dream to spring from any other source.

    I’ve heard all the “protect honest teachers from rabid administrators” gas but it just doesn’t seem like that sort of reason would apply almost nationwide.

  4. The Pennsylvania case of the 1930s provide some insights

    I would hypothesize as:
    – broad public education picking up speed
    – political football from funds
    – clash of movements and retrenchment
    eg loyalty oaths, biology v. religion

    Curiously, the Penn. cases carefully kept the option to remove tenure … otherwise, it would fail constitutionally as binding future generations

    “appellants’ objection that the Teachers’ Tenure Act abridges the power of future legislatures falls, because a subsequent legislature may abolish this Act, in toto, if it deems it necessary to do so under Article X, Section 1. And such future action can, for the same reason, be taken without producing an impairment of the obligations of the contracts for which the new Act provides because the Constitution only permits such contracts to be made subject to the right of change or regulation by future legislatures.”