On Dec. 15, we published a story about the results of an Associated Press-Stanford University poll that revealed 78 percent of respondents think it should be easier for school administrators to fire poorly performing teachers. Yet overall, the public wants to reward teachers, the poll suggested: 57 percent of respondents said teachers are paid too little, with just 7 percent believing they are overpaid and most of the rest saying they’re paid about right.
This polarizing story led many readers to weigh in with their own opinions. Some readers took issue with the public perception that it’s hard to fire bad teachers, while others argued that “bad” teaching is really a symptom of larger problems beyond a teacher’s control.
Here’s a sampling of what eSchool News readers had to say:
I feel the need to comment on the subject of how difficult it is to fire bad teachers, because I don’t understand where this assumption comes from. As a teacher in the state of Texas, we can be fired at any time for any reason. I have been teaching for 20 years and I don’t remember any school district ever offering tenure to anyone. I don’t think it exists in this state. We have to constantly prove our worth as teachers each day. Contracts are only 1 year at a time and even with a contract we don’t have much protection against job loss. I never see this information in articles that I have read about firing teachers.
I belong to a teachers union, but that has limited powers in this state. I am lucky because I work for a good school district that values its teachers, but not all school districts are that way. I hope that I can see future articles that have a more informed and balanced information about the situation in different states.
Anyone who purports to be involved in education should know that nearly half of new teachers quit within 5 years of beginning their career. With half of new hires abandoning the profession, the problem is not getting rid of the bad teachers. The problem is convincing the good ones that there is any reason to stay in a profession where they can count on being treated like garbage by politicians, parents, administrators, and the press, and paid at a level only marginally higher than that enjoyed by a fry cook.
I have watched a number of very skilled and promising young teachers leave the profession in the ten years since I became a teacher. Many of them are doing quite well in other career fields, and I myself regularly receive offers of higher pay and better working conditions outside of the classroom. Although politicians and the press appear to be obsessed with blaming teachers and schools for all of the problems facing the U.S. economy and civil society, the simple fact is that teachers are expected to choose a life of poverty when they choose to become teachers.
Many of us do the job anyway, out of a strong moral conviction that educating children is the single most important calling a person can answer. However, for a society to expect that one of its most important functions will be adequately met by its most poorly paid members is more than misguided, it is insane.
—Christopher Dahle, 6th grade math and science teacher, Ortega Middle School, Alamosa, Colo.