Tuesday, November 2, 2010

'Get rid of the deadwood'

Tulsa World editorial writer Wayne Greene has done yeoman's work pointing out the many problems with SQ 744. One reason he plans to vote against the measure is that

it fails to deal with the problem of dead-wood teachers in public schools. Most public school teachers enjoy the public school equivalent of tenure: Firing them is so expensive and time-consuming that school administrators are only willing to do it in the most outrageous of cases. That keeps incompetent teachers in the classroom. SQ 744 does nothing to address the problem. 

I'm reminded that in 2002, liberal state Rep. Debbie Blackburn (D-Oklahoma City), herself a former schoolteacher, acknowledged: "I taught with people that I thought should never have been in the profession." It might make sense to "get rid of the deadwood," she said.

Unfortunately, rather than evaluating Oklahoma's 37,660 teachers as individual professionals, their labor unions tend to treat them more like unskilled laborers, interchangeable automatons. But of course it's silly to speak of "teachers" as a monolithic mass. In reality, there are excellent teachers, good teachers, mediocre teachers, and those "incompetent teachers" Mr. Greene mentioned. Guy Strickland, an award-winning teacher, principal, and educational researcher, says the most informed estimates are that 5 to 15 percent of teachers are incompetent.

If he's correct, that's 1,883 to 5,649 incompetent teachers in Oklahoma. Quite apart from the damage being done to students, why should Oklahoma's hardworking waitresses and nurses and small-businessmen be forced to spend their hard-earned money paying the salaries of a few thousand incompetents? It makes no sense.

Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that things could be changing. Movies like Waiting for 'Superman' and The Lottery could portend a coming earthquake.

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