November 29, 2011 3 Comments
One of the more outlandish ideas tacitly tossed about in the education reform debate is the notion that making it easier to fire teachers will somehow lead to excellent teachers being “accidentally” fired as a result of misguided metrics. Given the care that goes into crafting education policy, it’s an absurd claim, but if you need more evidence there’s a new study that looks at firings in the aftermath of a 2004 collective bargaining agreement that gave Chicago principals carte blanche to fire teachers.
With the cooperation of the CPS, I matched information on all teachers who were eligible for dismissal with records indicating which teachers were dismissed. With these data, I estimate the relative weight that school administrators place on a variety of teacher characteristics. I find evidence that principals do consider teacher absences and value-added measures, along with several demographic characteristics, in determining which teachers to dismiss.
With all the opportunity in the world to screw up, principles decided to fire the teachers who…had the poorest attendance records and lowest effectiveness ratings. The principles also tended to fire teachers who had less experience and who had previously been fired.
One could raise doubts about the accuracy of the effectiveness ratings in question, but my point is that even with few guidelines principals seemed to have done a pretty good job identifying which teachers to fire. Evaluating the effectiveness of a teacher is clearly more complex than evaluating the effectiveness of a paper towel, but the implication that a teacher is some kind of nebulous vortex that transcends human judgment is absurd. Anybody who claims that a carefully constructed qualitative and quantitative evaluation in the hands of capable administrators will do more harm than good shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Jacob, B. (2011). Do Principals Fire the Worst Teachers? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33 (4), 403-434 DOI: 10.3102/0162373711414704