04 March 2011

Why it's hard to get rid of bad teachers

The graphic was posted at the Chicago Tribune.

If this topic interests you, you really need to listen to This American Life's 2008 presentation of "The Rubber Room"-
We hear from New York City school teachers about a secret room in the New York City Board of Education building. Teachers are told to report there, and when they arrive, they find out they're under investigation for something. They have to wait in this room all day, every day, until the matter is cleared up. They call this bureaucratic purgatory "the rubber room." Some teachers have been stuck in it for years.
And it's only fair to point out that the problems noted in the graphic regarding weeding out bad teachers applies equally to getting rid of bad doctors.  And bad lawyers. 

Via The Daily Dish.


  1. The difference is... bad lawyers or bad doctors will lose patients and clients. Public school teachers go on year after year failing students.

    Unlike hiring a doctor or lawyer parents and students are presented with their public school teachers and have very little control over choosing their teachers.

  2. "And it's only fair to point out that the problems noted in the graphic regarding weeding out bad teachers applies equally to getting rid of bad doctors. And bad lawyers."

    I assume you mean bad doctors and bad lawyers IN THE PUBLIC SECTORE? I can tell you from my colleagues' experiences that it is VERY easy for law firms to fire associates. They just inform them that they are no longer working there and walk them out.

  3. I'm sorry I didn't proof my post. "PUBLIC SECTOR" amongst other syntax, grammar, and spelling errors I'm sure you grammar gurus can and have found in my comments.

    I love the site and keep the great posts coming!!

  4. Legal Eagle, when I wrote that sentence, what was in my mind was getting bad practitioners out of the profession (not out of a particular job).

    In the medical field, a university can dismiss a physician (even a tenured one) for incompetence, but he/she can just go across town, set up an office and continue practicing. It's extremely rare that licenses are pulled, except for frank criminal conduct.

    I don't know the details in the world of attorneys, but I'll bet those dismissed by their associates are seldom disbarred from the profession.

  5. There is a pretty informative account of some of the problems with the claims in that infographic here:

  6. Wow, that Forbes blog post pretty well disposes of what, it turns out, can only be called a DISinfographic. Good ol' Chicago Trib...

    --Swift Loris

  7. The computations in the Forbes article are just for elementary. I had between 40 and 50 students much of the time in every class, and as a high school teacher, I taught 5 classes a day. Plus Homeroom,l where we were expected to teach test-taking skills. My classes were writing intensive. Just imagine how much time I spent (unpaid) at home reading, revising, and commenting on 200 papers a week. Not counting shorter assignments.

  8. If supervisors aren't expected to keep track of what their employees are doing and make sustained efforts to improve their employees performance, why do we need supervisors? The whole "it's too difficult to fire teachers" whine is the favorite rallying cry of inept supervisors who don't want to do half of what they require teachers to do.

  9. Shouldn't it be hard to "get people out of the profession"? Here's the alternative:

    Betty goes to college for 6 years, attaining her Masters of Education with a specialty in Science. She studies for 6 months to pass her teacher certification test. She practice-teaches at a school and is finally certified.

    She then goes to a school and starts teaching. A young gang-banger tries to test her by acting up in class and not doing his work. She gives him bad grades and refers him for discipline. He decides to "fix" her -- so he reports to the principal that she hit him.

    The principal doesn't want to drag this out, so Betty is immediately fired. She is no longer able to teach because she has this on her record when other districts check her references. She cannot pay back her college loans, and has basically wasted the past 6 years.

    Does that sound like a good thing?

    School districts are very different than law firms. There are dozens of law firms in any given area. School districts are very parochial in a region, and unless you think having to move to a different state is acceptable, capricious firings would have devastating impacts on someone's ability to work.


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