Saturday, March 28, 2009

That's the system we work in

Many moons ago, I wrote about the 10 Most Annoying People on Staff. Here's what I wrote about the fourth person:

4. The Union Thug--As soon as the clock hits 2:30, he's gone. You won't seem him until 7:00 a.m. If the principal has a new idea that might solve some problems, it has to be a violation of the contract. Nothing this person does is an action of his own. He is a follower at all cost. He is the reason why the outside world rags on teachers anytime we complain about pay. The building rep is on his speed dial, and there is no convincing him to budge a millimeter--it is the difference between being respected and taken advantage of.

This week the Union Thugs have been out in force. I dared to challenge the establishment, the system that we operate in and always have operated in.
The establishment believes that tenure and seniority are the way to eliminate positions when funding decreases.
I believe that competency or lack of it is the way to eliminate positions when funding decreases.
The American Federation of Teachers claims the following as its mission statement:

The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world. (emphasis added)

If I understand this properly, the AFT wants to put out the best quality of service which would strengthen the schools we serve. Then why won't the AFT come out and support a policy of eliminating teachers based on competency?
On high school tennis teams across America, players challenge one another for the top spot. The winner earns the right as the number one player. You are right if you are thinking that a clear winner will always exist in tennis. Okay. In high school bands across America, musicians challenge one another for first seat. The teacher listens, evaluates, and then makes a decision. If we can trust human band teachers to make the choice, can't we trust human administrators to identify the best teachers, regardless of service years?
Simply resting on the way we have always done things will never get good schools to become great schools. It certainly won't get failing districts to become good districts.


At 8:35 AM , Anonymous Dave said...

Can we trust human administrators to identify the best teachers, regardless of service years?


Administrators judge the competency of coaches around the country. Coaches are consistently run out of their positions by administrators because of parents and players, not competency.

Administrators can already dismiss "bad" teachers if they follow through on the evaluation process. Many don't observe and evaluate properly. I went a year and a half with a certain administration team without an observation. I did continue to receive positive evaluations though.

Administrators deciding who is or is not competent during funding decreases is a scary thought. With 12 years experience, I make quite a bit more than a 4th year teacher. Do I think decision makers at the state level would put pressure on school districts to see more experienced (higher paid) teachers as less competent than new (lower paid) teachers?


Since there is no "assessment" to adequately judge competency, and I believe there never will be, I am quite comfortable with tenure and seniority being the deciding factor.

At 9:45 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Dave--certainly you make reasonable points. Most of us have experienced incompetent administrators which begs us to ask a secondary question: Why don't districts hire competent leaders who focus on the bottome line of education, which is student learning?
Ultimately, the whole system is flawed. Administrators are not paid based on the results of their schools, which leads to the same complacency that affects classrooms across America.
And then perphaps the bigger flaw is that we don't have to compete for student money like others in the service industry must compete for customers. If we were driven by a need to attract and retain students, administrators would look to keep the more competent teachers--and ultimately pay them accordingly.


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