To fix schools, fire 6% of teachers

Firing 6 percent of teachers, after identifying the least effective, is the best way to improve students’ skills and stimulate economic recovery, according to a speech by Stanford’s Eric Hanushek, a specialist on the economics of education, at the University of Kentucky.

. . . Hanushek lamented the years the United States has wasted on resource solutions to improve student outcomes that have not worked. Among the factors not found to impact student achievement were per-pupil expenditures, class size, pupil/teacher ratios, whether or not teachers have master’s degrees, years of experience possessed by teachers and teacher certification.

. . . Looking at data from a large, urban school district, he found that effective teachers at the top of the quality distribution got “an entire year’s worth of additional learning out of their students, compared to those near the bottom.”

A majority of  teachers are effective, Hanushek said. Nearly all will improve with training and support. But the worst teachers aren’t capable of becoming good teachers no matter how much remediation they get. They’re dragging down the schools. They need to go.

The Gates Foundation is focusing on evaluating teacher effectiveness, writes Melinda Gates in a Washington Post op-ed.

. . .  a team of researchers (with support from the Gates Foundation) is working with more than 3,000 teachers in seven school districts to develop measures of teacher effectiveness. The project uses seven methods, including videotaping classes, analyzing test scores, and surveying teachers, students and parents.

The teachers’ unions are “partnering” with school officials on this work, Gates writes. Of course, it’s hard to say no to Gates money.

Update: National Journal’s Education Experts are debating Houston’s new policy of evaluating teacher effectiveness based on value-added test scores: 400 teachers — 3 percent of the total  — may be fired for failure to help students progress.

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Comments

  1. Jeez, you’d think a professor of economics might start by taking a hard look at the 40% of public education’s professional staff that has no direct impact on the classroom. I’m all for getting rid of lousy teachers but if the bucket-brigade of useless functionaries is left in place they’ll continue to try justify their existence to the detriment of education.

  2. I’m curious just what measures will be used to identify these “least effective” teachers. I’m guessing it’ll probably be standardized test scores.

    And then, will there be a 6% hole? Or will they be replaced, with the idea that ANYBODY has to be better than that 6?

  3. Don Bemont says:

    Allen is certainly correct.

    I would also add that, given the power to dismiss the bottom 6% of all teachers, administrators would almost certainly let be most of the worst instructors and instead dismiss those most inconvenient to administrators — often above average teachers who resist pressure to inflate grades and kowtow to important people.

    Such teachers would be assigned lots of chronic truants and then dismissed for having poor growth on their standardized test scores.

    Hanushek means well, but would unintentionally empower exactly those people that Allen rightly would eliminate.

  4. I agree with Don. Getting rid of the lower 6% sounds like a good idea, but letting the fox clear the henhouse would not end well.

    I have no doubt that more money is wasted in administration. In our local school district, only about 60% of the dollars are spent in direct instruction. The rest goes to assorted bean counting.

    I don’t think a company could possibly be competitive if it allocated 40%-50% of its cost of goods sold to administration.

  5. This is one of those ideas that is great in theory, but falls apart in application. We’d soon have new levels of administration set aside to oversee which 6% get cut, another layer to review those administrators, a department to deal with parent complaints when favorite teachers are cut (because they annoyed the wrong administrator or school board member), and a public relations person hired to tell everyone how great the school is implementing the program.

    The bottom 6% wouldn’t actually get fired because they have already hired lawyers, are related to the right people, coach the right sport, or are just “such a nice person.” Instead, we’d lose the outspoken or middle-of-the-road teachers that adminitrators think might leave without a fuss.

  6. Michael E. Lopez, Esq. says:

    Not only that, but the bottom 6% aren’t necessarily evenly distributed across schools and districts.

    Try solving THAT problem.

  7. The unions are going to “partner” to help identify bad teachers, or what makes bad teachers? Sorry, I’m not buying it. Any union involvement at all exists solely to head off adverse results for the union.

  8. (Allen): “Jeez, you’d think a professor of economics might start by taking a hard look at the 40% of public education’s professional staff that has no direct impact on the classroom.” Out-of-classroom parasites fall into “resources” which Professor Hanushek acknowledges do not, above some very low level, contribute. Dr. Hanushek balances theoretical analysis with statistical, empirical research. Pay attention to his recommendations.

    (Darren): “Any union involvement at all exists solely to head off adverse results for the union.”

    At this point, our discussion boils down to “who will bell the cat?” The system exists for the benefit of current recipients of the taxpayers’ $500 billion+ K-12-dedicated revenue stream and the politicans they support. Institutional change will not happen until public sector unions have bled taxpayers white. Parents do not need to await structural reform. Homeschool. In Hawaii, at least, no statute requires that instruction occur between 0800 and 1430. Parents can extend daycare to age 17, use the GED and College Board to gain early admission to a community college, and go on with life.

  9. > Dr. Hanushek balances theoretical analysis with statistical, empirical research. Pay attention to his recommendations.

    No.

    If Dr. Hanushek’s managed to overlook the fact that administrators above the level of principal and central office staff in their entirety have no worthwhile role in education then Dr. Hanushek is inviting us all to strain at ants while the elephants get a pass.

    The district system is an artifact of a political deal struck over a century ago. It was a lousy idea then but it’s a much worse idea now and there is nothing sacrosanct about it. Either everyone who works in education is responsible for some contribution to the education of kids, and is measured for their skill, or teacher accountability’s a farce.

  10. Wow. Does any of you have any experience trying to run a school? No? Then shut up.

  11. (Alan): “If Dr. Hanushek’s managed to overlook the fact that administrators above the level of principal and central office staff in their entirety have no worthwhile role in education then Dr. Hanushek is inviting us all to strain at ants while the elephants get a pass.”

    Do not infer from Dr. Hanushek’s assertion that 6% of teachers drag the system down that he approves of waste elsewhere. I would not even assume that he supposes his recommendation to be political possible. He may have floated it to illustrate the roadblocks to effective reform.

  12. I’m not inferring anything and I’m not trying to discern Dr. Hanushek’s intent. I’m saying that Dr. Hanushek has his priorities wrong. Teacher accountability *can’t* work, at least institution-wide, until all the professionals have a stake in assuring that learning takes place.

  13. Wow, Mike, I don’t have any experience being a Congressman, so I guess I can’t have any expectations that they do a good job, either. I wonder why your panties got so bunched up. Hit too close to home?

  14. This union member would be quite pleased if poor teachers were not part of the system. They make the rest of us look bad. What’s needed, certainly, is a more rigorous and fair accountability system. There actually are teachers, like me, who have proposed ways of implementing such a system. I’m not sure that “fire the bottom 6%” is a workable policy, but getting rid of ineffective teachers who are chronically, unteachably ineffective is a win-win-win-win-win: for teachers, for unions, for children, for taxpayers, and, yes, even for the ineffective teacher him/herself.

    Anti-union sentiment is hardly bold and visionary, and accusing union members of tolerating the lazy, the uncaring, and the unmotivated is unhelpful.

  15. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    RE: The “6% Solution”…
    Fire 75% (and that’s a lowball figure) of the principals/A.Ps, 100% of the “bilingual coordinators”, 100% of out-of-classroom personnel (except custodial and office admin. staff) and 99.99% of district administrative staff

    And if we could only fire 100% of the dysfunctional parents who don’t take responsibility for sending their children to school, ready to learn, and respectful of the process..parents who see teachers as much more than babysitters and daycare workers.

    Ah…in a perfect world…