As mentioned in the previous post, there has been a lot of interesting stuff written about education in the last week or so, much of it in response to the manifesto published in the Washington Post, which is the usual union-busting line about how it’s too difficult to fire the incompetent teachers who are ruining our public schools. Harry at Crooked Timber has a good response, and links to some more good responses to this.

I’m curious about a slightly different question, though, which is in the post title. There’s a lot of talk about how incompetent teachers are dragging the system down, but you don’t see many citations of useful data about how many of these school-killing teachers there really are.

So, the question is, what fraction of public-school teachers are genuinely incompetent? That is, how many of them are so bad that they ought to be driven out of the profession altogether? Obviously, you would expect something like half of them to be “below average” by some measure, but that’s going to include a lot of people who aren’t all that bad, but got a bad class, or had a bad year. I’m talking about the left side of the bell curve (if it even is a bell curve– that’s not necessarily the case)– the ones who are really bad, year in and year out.

Anecdotally, I suspect the percentage is pretty small. From my own school days, I can only think of one teacher I had who, in retrospect, I think was genuinely doing a bad job (and I’m not sure whether that was something that would show up in test scores), and a couple of others who had a really bad reputation. That’s out of around a hundred teachers in the district, so you’re looking at maybe 5% incompetents.

Now, I had the advantage of having a father who taught in the district, and could steer me to the better teachers at each grade level, so it may be that I missed some really bad people. But again, my father taught in the district, so I also get to hear his impressions of his colleagues, and I don’t think the number of bozos gets all that much bigger based on that.

Does that mean that I only had one or two teachers I disliked? No. There were plenty of other classes I didn’t care for, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that a lot of those were just a mismatch of styles, with the teacher doing something that worked for the rest of the class, but didn’t work for me. I’m talking about people who look bad even from my current perspective– whose control of the classroom was erratic to nonexistent, whose assignments were pointlessly tedious or ridiculously easy, who taught to a test and didn’t attempt to stretch their classes at all.

Is this just an illusion caused by a privileged position? Enh. Maybe, but I doubt it. I think it was certainly the case that better teachers got assigned to better classes (at the high school level, some of the people who had the reputation of being really bad taught non-Regents classes), but I don’t think that was a huge part of it. And it’s certainly not a matter of going to an elite district– this was a public school in a rural part of New York State, not some wealthy suburban district flush with cash.

This does point to a problem with anecdotal experience, though, which is that the limited number of teachers a given student sees tends to magnify the perception of incompetence. That is, while there are 100-ish teachers in the district, as a student, I only took classes from maybe 30-40 of them over the 13 years I was in school. Which means that a person who wound up with one really bad teacher would think, based on their experience, that the fraction of incompetent teachers was significantly higher– a single bad teacher in a district of 100 teachers is 1% of the total, but 3% of the sample of 33 teachers that a single student sees.

Anyway, this isn’t data by any stretch, but I’d be interested to see some real data on this topic. What fraction of teachers are genuinely bad at what they do, but hanging around because they’re impossible to fire?

Comments

  1. #1 becca
    October 19, 2010

    If you are going to evaluate teachers on ‘control of the classroom’ (which is reasonable- it’s typically a necessary albeit insufficient condition for good teaching), a rural school district in New York state is going to have MANY better teachers than average, because they are going to have MANY easier students. You may not have been privileged in the sense of a financially rich school, but that does not mean you were not atypically advantaged in ways you are taking for granted now.
    Did you have metal detectors to get into your grade school? How may students in your grade school did drugs? How many were in gangs? How many brought weapons to school with the intent to hurt others (not just ‘in the good old days, we could have a pocketknife!’)? How many of your fellow students were actually below the poverty line, and how many didn’t get enough to eat? How many were abused or neglected?

    I’m obviously not interested in blaming teachers, but I do think it’s likely you have an inflated view of how many functional classrooms there are out there.

  2. #2 Steven Colyer
    October 19, 2010

    There is a simple solution to the problem regardless of cause, Chad: Enroll Steelykid in private school, and do so until college, when you enroll her in State University, although I’m sure Grover Cleveland’s alma mater will be be enticing because you work there and I suspect her tuition will be free. Or go full co-ed naked Ivy League. Your kid, your call.

    I’ve thrown 4 kids through American public education, and trust me the system is so screwed up and has its own private inertia of such strength that nothing significant will change before Steelykid is 18. 40 years? maybe, but who knows what the morrow will bring?

    Trust me, the 2 biggest gorillas in the room in Public Education are Teachers’ Unions, and clueless State Departments of Education. Everyone else in Education (Administration, Staff, School Boards, Teachers and Students, Parents) sucks up to them. This is why private institutions such as yours are important.

    In a perfect world, which is NOT the one we live in obviously, the Student would come first and the Teacher (NOT their Union, which privately they’ll admit they despise) second. All others can pound salt. Without students, teachers would be out of a job. Without teachers, students would still learn. The hard way. From family, friends, and nature.

    We have come a long way from Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Too far, and in the wrong direction. Perhaps we should return.

  3. #3 flea
    October 19, 2010

    My children attend PreK and 2nd grade at a Title 1 school (PreK-5th grade) that has more than 80% of children on free or reduced lunch, and is probably 75% nonwhite (black and latino). It’s one of 11 elementary schools in the small (pop. 110,000) Southern city we inhabit, a city in which 39% of the population lives below the federal poverty line.

    I’ve had 4 of the ca. 24 teachers at the school as primary classroom teachers for my children. I know something about many of the other classroom teachers as well as the art, music, gym, gifted, etc. teachers. I can honestly say there are no duds among them that I’ve encountered. Every teacher I’ve seen has good control of the classroom (no, there are no metal detectors at this school). And yes, we made AYP this year.

    I get really tired of people who bash public schools, especially those attended by the urban poor, with no actual experience of them.

  4. #4 Willy
    October 19, 2010

    Worse still and potentially more damaging are incompetent administrators. One bad teacher may ruin a class, but a bad administrator brings the whole school down.

    I would say that there are more ineffective/incompetent administrators than teachers (measured in percent of the total number of their respective groups.) If you’re looking for bang-for-the-buck, expending your energies on removing bad admin is where y’all should be looking.

    [Disclosure: school board member for 8 years, 4 years teaching science in alternative safe schools under good and bad administrators.]

  5. #5 Steven Colyer
    October 19, 2010

    Oh really, you like Public Education so much? Then pls explain to us how a 25-year old teacher 3 years out of college deserves tenure, because the system is such plenty of them get that. That makes as much sense to me as a 25-yr-old Wall Street Investement Banker getting a million dollar bonus, which makes no sense at all.

  6. #6 Steven Colyer
    October 19, 2010

    My last comment was directed at flea, not Willy btw, we replied at the same time.

    I hear you Willy about School Boards. They are political, and that’s the basic problem. They’re one step up from the benthic sludge compared to the State Departments of Education however because at least they live locally.

  7. #7 Rhett
    October 19, 2010

    Here is my estimation for the opposite. http://scienceblogs.com/dotphysics/2010/08/an_estimation_problem_for_math.php

    I estimated how many good math teachers there are based on how many I know.

  8. #8 John Novak
    October 19, 2010

    This does point to a problem with anecdotal experience, though, which is that the limited number of teachers a given student sees tends to magnify the perception of incompetence.

    Logical foul, begging the question, ten yard penalty.

    Yes, you’re right, this is a problem with the anecdotal experience. But this could go either way– exposure to a limited number of teachers could just as easily magnify perceptions of competence. Instead, you assume the premise you’re trying to argue for.

    Solution: Stop relying on anecdotal evidence. Start measuring.

  9. #9 flea
    October 19, 2010

    Steven Coyler: I am not sure why you are raising the issue of teacher tenure in your response to me, since I did not mention it. In fact, I live in Georgia, which eliminated public school teacher tenure in 2000. (see: http://coefaculty.valdosta.edu/lschmert/gera/vol3no1/Tenuress-grubbs.pdf)

    I do like public education. I like an educated public. I would like a better-educated public, in fact, and improving public education is the only way I know to do it.

  10. #10 G
    October 19, 2010

    Straight from the mouth of Arianna Huffington, here’s an interesting statistic: only 1 in 2500 teachers are fired or released for incompetence compared to 1 in 37 doctors of 1 in 67 lawyers. Do you really think the number of bad teachers is that low? Your own figure of 5% is much, much greater than this number. This is the problem – it’s structurally impossible to fire bad teachers. For example, in California many teachers at the middle and high school levels receive “tenure” after only two years without any formal review process. This makes it extremely difficult to fire them, ever. And what, pray tell, does a middle school teacher need “tenure” for anyway?

  11. #11 hibob
    October 19, 2010

    Over the summer the LA Times (usually not my favorite source for science news) did a value-added analysis of teachers and schools on grade school student performance in the LA unified school district for the past seven years.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/teachers-investigation/

    They did a good job explaining the method, limitations, and benefits of a value added analysis. They even brought up reversion to the mean, and stressed that it was important not to let one bad or good year be weighted too much. They also looked at (and explained!) how much of the variance in academic performance was correlated with difference in teachers as opposed to different schools, etc. I won’t speak to how tight their methodology was (if it gets published in a journal it might be easier to say), but it was great to see an in depth explanation of the process in a major newspaper.

    One thing they didn’t do (at least I couldn’t find it), was try to establish a threshold for incompetence and then estimate how many teachers fall below this. This is probably in part because they also created a searchable index of all the grade school teachers in the study, and didn’t want a lawsuit on their hands. They did however profile one teacher who underperformed year in and year out; looking at his ranking he would be in the bottom 5-10% of teachers in the analysis:

    http://projects.latimes.com/value-added/teacher/john-smith/

    They really only bin the teachers into quintiles, but allow you to make finer guess at their raw scores via the graphics.

  12. #12 Steven Colyer
    October 19, 2010

    flea, don’t take what I said personally. I was reacting to your reaction that you’re tired of public school bashing, because I think if a system, any system, isn’t working, then yes it should be bashed.

    Georgia eliminated tenure?! Good for Georgia! Well done! We’re trying to do the same here in New Jersey, let’s see how that goes.

    But the problem isn’t with tenure per se, it’s with giving it to those whose ink isn’t fully yet dried on their diploma. Eliminating it entirely might be excessive. A middle road, perhaps? But that’s why we have 50 states. Each can learn from the things the other ones do well, and poorly. We’ll get there eventually, I hope.

    Chad, to answer your question, I’ve found 30 percent of business managers to be incompetent. In academia, I suspect that figure is a spot higher, and offer no clue to the exact figure.

  13. #13 Scott F
    October 19, 2010

    My wife is a public school teacher, and I volunteer on a local school board. The following is not “data”, merely anecdote. But it is relevant.

    There are two issues. First, many of the college programs that are intended to “educate” teachers are a joke. A bad joke. It’s not that the teachers are “bad” or “incompetent”, just that they are badly trained. Many college programs don’t teach anything about learning theory, or effective teaching methods, or actually how to teach. Most are focused on the day-to-day minutiae of how to write lesson plans, or federal paper work, or IEP reports. In my wife’s experience, those teachers who are “good” are good in spite of their training, not because of it.

    Second, the curriculum that school districts select are often appallingly ineffective at teaching information. They look nice and slick and glossy, but when you actually try to implement the curriculum, you find that by the end of the year, the kids haven’t really been taught anything. They go through the motions, but there is no knowledge transfer.

    So, yes, you can blame some of the problems on the teachers, but many of the problems can be found with how “education” is organized and practiced today – the business of education if you will – which is often beyond the teachers’ control.

  14. #14 Sue VanHattum
    October 19, 2010

    I experienced one bad teacher in high school (in the early seventies), who showed lots of movies, and gave lots of tests, which left very little time to instruct us. Maybe one hour a week.

    I tried to get him fired. The administration said they couldn’t fire him. They got me out of that class, and let me do independent study. I wasn’t yet enough of an activist to feel bad about that.

    I don’t think they couldn’t fire him. I think they didn’t want the headache. If you tend to not like unions, you could say the union agreement was the problem. I tend to appreciate the protection provided by unions for those with less power (in this case, teachers, who have less power than the administrators), and I saw it as the administration not wanting to take on what would have been a big, uncomfortable job.

  15. #15 Brian
    October 19, 2010

    The question isn’t whether the percentage of bad teachers is 5% or .04%. The question is “How much difference will firing these teachers make?”

    For me, there are 2 parts of this question: 1) since the VAST majority (even the anti-unions person in the thread admits to 2/3) are the small minority of bad teachers REALLY doing that much damage? Yes, if 1/3 of the teachers are bad that will have a negative effect, but I’m with Chad, I think it’s much closer to 5%. Is it worth spending all this effort on something that won’t affect 95% of all classrooms???

    2) Lets assume that yes, it is important enough. Where do you think we’re going to get more, better trained teachers? Public school teachers (the mediocre and better ones) are some of the most highly-trained, yet worst paid jobs in the country. I’m not sure if that thing that was going around a few years ago that basically showed that public school teachers were getting paid baby-sitter rates is accurate or not, but it wasn’t THAT far off. And before you say that they get 3 months vacation in the summer, no, they get 3 months where they have to prep for the next year, but DON’T GET PAID AT ALL.

    If you want to fire all of the bad teachers, you’ve got to be willing to put up enough money for salaries to attract the smart, energetic, well-educated teachers who will do better.

  16. #16 Anonymous Coward
    October 19, 2010

    I’d guess around 10% incompetence in my home state, based on memories of my childhood. I suspect the number is higher than my experience would indicate, as my parents hustled to try to make sure I went to the better public schools and – when the opportunity was available – had better instructors.

    To add another anecdotal point to Scott F’s post, the coursework involved in getting a masters in education (at the public universities in my home state) is largely B.S., according to a family member and a girlfriend who went through the program. Mostly busywork and parroting information back to the instructor, with little of value for teaching.

    In general, the barrier for entry into the profession is relatively low, there aren’t good means for eliminating the incompetent, and the compensation isn’t that great (although this varies from district to district, as well as the individual’s ability to game the system). It’s pleasantly surprising to me that public education is often as good as it is.

    Re: Brian’s post
    1) Yes.
    2) Agreed.

  17. #17 Eric Lund
    October 19, 2010

    If you want to fire all of the bad teachers, you’ve got to be willing to put up enough money for salaries to attract the smart, energetic, well-educated teachers who will do better.

    This. You get what you pay for.

    Worse still and potentially more damaging are incompetent administrators. One bad teacher may ruin a class, but a bad administrator brings the whole school down.

    Also this. A single bad teacher can only wreck things for kids in his classes, which would be 20-30 in elementary school and maybe as many as 200 in middle school or high school each year. A bad principal, especially in a large urban/suburban school district, can wreck things for thousands of students. A bad superintendent or school board can wreck things across an entire school district, and in some cases the number of affected kids would be well into six figures. Been there, done that–I went to school in such a district. Most of the teachers and principals were reasonably competent, at least in my part of town (I was in one of the better-off suburban areas), but downtown was a circus.

    The one big advantage private schools have over public schools is that the former can choose their student body while the latter have to take all comers. There are former teachers in my family tree, and they tell me that one sufficiently disruptive student (who has been mainstreamed because federal law requires it–something that wasn’t true 30 years ago) can wreck an entire class, and there is not much the teacher can do about it.

  18. #18 RSA Certificate
    October 19, 2010

    What I don’t understand is if you don’t want to teach and inspire, why did you even go into the educational field? I mean really.

  19. #19 joemac53
    October 19, 2010

    Just retired after teaching math/physics for 35 years in suburban high school. I had the best job in the system. I had mostly motivated students. I got to try innovative approaches (read:fun) with my students. Most of them trusted that I knew what I was doing and cared about what they learned. They came into school early, late and even at night to ensure they knew what was going on in class.
    Keeping up with the students was the “work” of my job. They kept me on my toes. Administrators left me alone at the school level, but the district administrators could be a real drag on education. They were just rolling out their “value-added” malarky when I left.
    I left a great bunch of young teachers at my school. I don’t worry about them at all. Maybe I was too close to the situation, but I never thought my school was “in trouble” or had “failed”.

  20. #20 Christopher Sachs
    October 19, 2010

    It’s the curriculum. Fundamentals are deemphasized. Students are taught to the lowest common denominator–which is constantly being lowered. Our public schools are wildly successful at destroying students self-motivation. People who haven’t been through public high school in last 10 years have no idea. They expect nothing of you. If you expect something of yourself they will relentlessly chisel away at you. There is no challenge. There’s not even lip-service paid to learning.

    Thank goodness I dropped out and started going to the library every day to teach myself Physics. I’m one of only a few people from my high school who is becoming a scientist.

    Education in this country is an unmitigated disaster.

  21. #21 Art
    October 19, 2010

    As a kid who went to a high school where almost every class had fifty to sixty students, classes where just having enough desks, and room for all the desks, was an issue, I have to note that most bad teachers are created by the system.

  22. #22 Pteryxx
    October 19, 2010

    Re: teacher competency, value-added analysis, and how to determine what matters, y’all may find this essay interesting: “The Quarterback Problem” from the New Yorker.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

  23. #23 CCPhysicist
    October 19, 2010

    The answer to the question in your headline is really quite simple: The number of incompetent teachers is much smaller than the number of incompetent principals and administrators.

    Why? Because every single incompetent teacher with tenure was hired and granted tenure by principals who were hired (and often transferred willy nilly between schools) by administrators. Locally, a principal that parents and teachers alike agreed was Worst Ever eventually became superintendent of schools. Principals get shuffled between schools in our district, but I’ve never heard of one being fired because incompetent teachers had been hired and granted tenure.

    Blaming unions @2 is silly because no teacher’s union EVER made the hiring decision or granted tenure. Blaming the State @2 is equally silly because they have little control at the local level except to pull a license for criminality or take over a district because of utter mismanagement. Mere mismanagement or mere incompetence is not within their purview. Further, the State Ed folks take their lead from political mandates, such as NCLB, and just passes that buck down from the Legislature or Congress.

    Finally, a far greater problem than any mentioned here is that Teacher is now a job rather than a profession and draws its new recruits from the less skilled part of the student body. The days when half of the brightest students (women) went into education are long gone, and the status and compensation of the field has not tempted many of either gender to leave law, medicine, or engineering to go into K-12 teaching.

  24. #24 Chad Orzel
    October 19, 2010

    Boy, did I ever pick the wrong day to write about education policy, a topic that always gets my blood pressure up. The faculty meeting earlier today left me just about ready to kill somebody, though, so I haven’t felt calm enough to respond to any of this until now. I’m arguably still not calm enough, but I do want to get to a couple of things:

    Solution: Stop relying on anecdotal evidence. Start measuring.

    I agree. Hence the last paragraph, particularly the sentence
    “Anyway, this isn’t data by any stretch, but I’d be interested to see some real data on this topic.”

    Of course, the real problem is finding a reasonable metric to use (standardized test scores alone won’t do), but I’m all in favor of getting actual measurements made.

    And what, pray tell, does a middle school teacher need “tenure” for anyway?

    Among other things, so that it’s possible to teach evolution and sex education in the Bible Belt without fearing for your job every time those topics come around.

    Chad, to answer your question, I’ve found 30 percent of business managers to be incompetent. In academia, I suspect that figure is a spot higher, and offer no clue to the exact figure.

    I find this fascinating. This is in the business world, where there is no barrier to firing incompetent people. So, are we then to conclude that 30% is an acceptable level of incompetence? Or are business managers just vastly less competent than teachers as a general rule, so that even unlimited powers of termination can’t keep up with the influx of idiots?

  25. #25 jim
    October 19, 2010

    FWIW, looking back over the 60+ teachers my daughters had, there were maybe four bad ones: one malevolent, one flaky, one inflexible, one burnt out. On the other hand, of the 6 principals they experienced (in three schools!), there were 3 bad ones: the ice queen, the overly student-friendly one, the overly lax one. And I wasn’t impressed with the high school assistant principals either. Anecdotal perhaps, but it suggests that there’s a real problem with the pool from which principals are selected. And there’s no principals union.

  26. #26 Sherri
    October 19, 2010

    From my experience with public education as a parent and a volunteer, teacher quality is mixed, but even a great teacher can be hindered mightily by an incompetent principal, and a great principal with great teachers can be brought down by incompetent administrators. I’ve regularly run into more total incompetence in district offices than in classrooms. Principals and administrators are not union employees, but nobody ever seems to talk much about firing them or holding them accountable, just fire the teachers.

    I’ve had almost no encounters with teachers where I was gobsmacked by ignorance, but quite a few with administrators, yet in my experience, administrators have no respect for teachers.

  27. #27 natural cynic
    October 19, 2010

    Those who can, do
    Those who can’t, teach
    Those who can’t teach, administrate.

  28. #28 Clay Boggess
    October 20, 2010

    Why should anyone in any position deserve to be tenured? Take away job security and you take away complacency.

  29. #29 Steven Colyer
    October 20, 2010

    Hi Chad, Professor Orzel and highly competent Teacher (hence your blood-pressure-inducing low tolerance for arseholes),

    I wrote:
    Chad, to answer your question, I’ve found 30 percent of business managers to be incompetent. In academia, I suspect that figure is a spot higher, and offer no clue to the exact figure.

    To which you responded:
    I find this fascinating. This is in the business world, where there is no barrier to firing incompetent people. So, are we then to conclude that 30% is an acceptable level of incompetence? Or are business managers just vastly less competent than teachers as a general rule, so that even unlimited powers of termination can’t keep up with the influx of idiots?

    Your two questions are inter-related, but to answer each separately before I blend them:

    To the first question, NO, 30% is not acceptable. I have found in my 54 years that the number of incompetent and evil people number no more than 20%, generally speaking, so even business can do better. The TEACHERS I’ve had are on the order of 95% competent, but hoo-boy do the bad ones ever discourage people from learning, a shame.

    To the second question, the quick answer is YES, but the system they work in is worst than Business. The thing about Business is, incompetents dig their own graves and are found out and then terminated in three years, at most. In Government and Non-Profits (Charities, Hospitals, and SOME Academias), they can keep their jobs for a lifetime. Another shame.

    The GOOD News is that opposing the 30% of incompetents, there are 30% of workers/Professionals that are so outstanding (such as yourself) that you feel very fortunate to work for them, and you will go to Hell and back to fight for the right that they represent. The other 40% follow The Peter Principle, which I guess you know about but if not I’ll explain it to you, or there’s Wikipedia.

    FINALLY, here’s some REALLY Good News for you and Kate:

    Here in America, our Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade Public School Educators are absolutely outstanding! So you have more time than you may think to decide Steelykid’s future Educational fate. And it’s not like the quality beginning in 3rd grade falls off the cliff, either, but it does so after that and rapidly so. So you have time.

    So relax man, you have time. Best of everything to you and Kate and Steelykid. You run one of the top 4 weblogs in Mathematical Physics, along with Bee’s, Woit’s, and Sean Carroll’s. Keep fighting the good fight. You’ll win, man, and thanks again for this fine weblog. Onward and upward, bro.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  30. #30 Steven Colyer
    October 20, 2010

    CORRECTION: I wrote:

    To the second question, the quick answer is YES, but the system they work in is worst than Business.

    But what I SHOULD have written was:

    To the second question, the quick answer is YES, but the system teachers work in is worst than Business.

    Sorry, man.

  31. #31 darwinsdog
    October 20, 2010

    I agree with natural cynic in post #27, especially when it comes to secondary education. Many get bachelors degrees in biology or chemistry, etc., hoping to become biologists or chemists. When that doesn’t work out they fall back on teaching biology or chemistry. When they burn out on doing that they get a masters in ed admin and become school administrators. And when they fail at being school administrators they often get their EdD and teach would-be teachers how to fail at educating students.

  32. #32 Steven Colyer
    October 20, 2010

    Hi natural cynic,

    You wrote:
    Those who can, do
    Those who can’t, teach,
    Those who can’t teach, administrate.

    Alternatively, there’s Jack Black in “The School of Rock”, where he said:

    Those who can, do
    Those who can’t do, teach,
    And those who can’t teach, teach gym.

    LOL, boy can I ever relate to that last line, though the first two are typical American blue-collar mentality.

    Since 1776, and probably further back. :-)

  33. #33 Johan Larson
    October 21, 2010

    “This is in the business world, where there is no barrier to firing incompetent people. So, are we then to conclude that 30% is an acceptable level of incompetence? Or are business managers just vastly less competent than teachers as a general rule, so that even unlimited powers of termination can’t keep up with the influx of idiots?”

    Business managers do not have unlimited powers of termination. The law tends to be protective of job-holders, and mandate a certain amount of due process before someone is fired. There are also other less obvious factors that make managers leery of quick dismissals:

    1. The manager is typically the person who hired the worker in question, so firing him means admitting to having made a serious mistake.
    2. The manager cannot be sure he will be allowed to replace the fired worker. Upper management might prefer to see downsizing by attrition rather than hiring a replacement, or some other manager might step up to argue that her group needs staff more.
    3. Any dismissal incurs a risk of expensive and time-consuming litigation.

    In my experience, real incompetents do get fired, but unless the problem is evident from day one, the road to the exit can take several years. The more common pattern is that managers identify their low-performers and lay them off when upper management imposes cuts in staffing levels as a result of recessions or bad quarterly results.

  34. #34 Jim
    October 27, 2010

    I am of the belief that truly bad teachers are fairly rare. I have had several teachers that where bad for me but for other students I could see they provide value to their education and some of my favorite teachers where difficult for other students the teacher that is truly just bad seems to be much fewer in number. Personal antidote evidence time but going to high school in an average middle class school I had 2 teachers that were stet up bad teachers one should have been fired for her drinking if not for her total indifference to teaching the other was an adjunct at the community college I took classes at during HS where a class that started out with about 30ish students had only 9 students at the drop date and the school amending policy on refunds and extending the drop date for that one class. The problem with so much around the issue is what makes a teacher good for one kid could be the worse thing for the next or indifferent for another. It is a lot easier to find the truely bad ones and scare stats to the contary most seem to be moved out rather quick or they burn out rather quick.

    Someone above mentioned that 1 in 2500 stat for firing teachers but this stat is extremely misleading. That is the stat for tenured teachers in one specific system. It ignores the teachers that where let go before gaining tenure or quit before gaining tenure. Probably more teachers that gain tenure than that should be fired but that is on the administrator for not making cases for their being fired all tenure gives is due process rights.

  35. #35 warren katz
    October 28, 2010

    How can a teacher teach when he is threatened by the student or a student comes to class and does not want to do the work.There is no respect for the teacher today. There are a lot of good teachers out there but when the teacher has to compete with rap music[garbage] such as 50 cents, then there is a problem.Also if looks at a student in an odd way,he is brought up on charges.The only reason why a teacher is incompetent is that he has 30 plus yeas in the system and it is time to get rid of him because he is making to much money. Today you can fire the high priced teacher and have him replaced by the that have come out of cellege. Also close down programs that cost too much money such as carpentry ,which they love and work on the computor because they all will be rocket scientists after they get out of college.We must get rid of people such as joe klein and bloomberg that run the system.What does a lawyer and a business man know about teaching. They couldn’t last two hours in the class room.

  36. #36 Naomi Robbins
    September 26, 2011

    It is very hard to judge the complexity of bad teachers and bad students.

    I grew up in a pretty tough neighbourhood and the teachers didn’t really get to teach, just hand out discipline.

    Teaching is a really hard role and when you have a public school system in tough areas that don’t care about the students then the teachers have a really hard time teaching – nobody wins.

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