241 Teachers Lose Jobs


Michelle Rhee announced this week the firing of 241 teachers as part of the ongoing implementation of a broad based reform movement (IMPACT) that she undertook just a short time ago. This program is not new content and is ultimately based on work by Marzano and Waters (2009 and prior) that connects the essence of reform to the concept of “value added.” They also equate this term with words like “growth” and “knowledge gains” to give context to the meaning.

Interestingly, the media has attached this value added concept to student test scores when discussing the evaluation that took place while screening for failing or ineffective teachers. I think this may be over-simplification of the concept of accountability for formative assessment gains over time that was originally proposed by Marzano and Waters. In fact, there should be a plan in place to address both curriculum and assessment tied to these plans and accountability measures.

If she is looking only at achievement test scores, then this plan is flawed and should be addressed immediately. I doubt that based on the material I have reviewed on the IMPACT website and the foundational literature upon which it is based. I suggest that this may be the best of the recent spate of firings because it has strong pedagogy behind it.

731 additional teachers are on notice to improve. This group will be the ones to watch. If these reforms truly meet the demands of eliciting greater achievement in the classroom, then these teachers will be the test of the efficacy of accountability. Under increase scrutiny, do you think these teachers will get better? Will supports be provided consistent with the pressure as leading researchers have confirmed is critical?

The union fight is inevitable and unlikely to draw too much attention. We all know that the union works for these fired teachers are required by their policies as a representative of the teachers to pursue accordingly. It is unlikely, however, that any of these teachers will find their way back to DC classrooms because the leadership cannot afford to be undercut in their search of excellence and in the shadow of an election year for Fenty. For this number of people to move through the appeal and/or arbitration process will likely take years. I think Michelle’s staff is counting on that.

About the only thing they need to worry about is finding enough teachers to take the open positions. The salary incentives installed as part of this measure will require a decade before new teachers will be encouraged to join the ranks and fill the empty spots. This is a nationwide barrier to the kind of turnover many expect. Thus, the dance of the lemons continues unabated until we find instrumental ways to renew and inspire teachers who have been disenfranchised by incompetent leaders for decades. The underlying story of these firings has to include the question – How did these teachers remain in their posts for so long without scrutiny? What was wrong with the administration that allowed this to continue for so long? And, finally – Where do you think these teachers will ultimately land?

References

Marzano, R. J., & Waters, T. (2009). District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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