In Trending Toward Reform, we highlighted how teachers’ opinions have changed since 2007. Teachers are more open to some differentiated pay proposals, believe that tenure is becoming more meaningful, and see evaluation as improving. But sometimes what has not changed is just as important.
What’s stayed the same since 2007? How teachers believe their principal would act if faced with a persistently ineffective teacher already past the probationary period. Unlike a multiple choice test, there is no single correct answer. Depending on the circumstance, an effective and proactive principal may initiate formal proceedings or quietly encourage the teacher to leave. But according to teachers, only 33% of principals will take one of these steps to dismiss an ineffective teacher.
While principals may reasonably take different actions, there are clear wrong choices. Teachers believe that principals often do nothing (16%), or transfer the teacher to another school in the “Dance of the Lemons” (13%.)* Equally troubling, 12% of teachers are not sure what their principal would do if faced with a persistently ineffective teacher. Even in districts where principals are hampered by overly burdensome due process marathons, principals should be upfront about instructional expectations and counsel low-performing teachers out of the school.
TNTP’s recent report, The Irreplaceables, highlights the pivotal role that principals play in retaining the most effective teachers—the irreplaceable teachers—and releasing the least effective teachers. However, TNTP found that schools retain their best and least effective teachers at shockingly similar rates. Not only do principals make almost no effort to urge low-performing teachers to leave, some principals encourage them to stay.
Traditionally, principals set the culture and ran the building—a full-time job. Today, we are asking more from principals: we are asking them to be instructional leaders, teacher evaluators, and human capital managers. In the past few years, we have seen how much training principals need in order to be effective evaluators. It’s time to teach principals how to recruit and retain the most effective teachers—and provide them with the policies to allow them to do that.
* These are the 2011 numbers, and there was no significant difference between 2007 and 2011.