I have found great disagreement among education leaders on how hard it is to remove an ineffective or problem teacher from the classroom. Some school chiefs tell me it is a matter of careful documentation and can be done, while others say it’s a major undertaking that saps all their time and energy and still ends up in court battles.
In the fifth entry in the ongoing AJC teacher quality series, reporters describe a recent tribunal hearing to fire an Atlanta teacher for incompetence and insubordination: Located at the district’s headquarters, the hearing room is staged like a traditional courtroom: In front sits a hearing officer, paid for by the district to oversee the proceedings. To the officer’s right: three tribunal members, designated by the school board, who in Atlanta can each bill up to $150 a day, plus expenses. To the officer’s left, a court stenographer who typically charges $100 a day plus $7 per transcript page. And facing the officer and tribunal sits the school district’s attorney, behind stacks of papers that hint at the hours spent investigating the case.
The AJC is making this occasional series on teacher quality available only to subscribers. You can read today’s full article by picking up a copy of Sunday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution or logging on to the paper’s iPad app. Here is a link to the AJC digital options, including an E-subscription, which gives you the actual paper online.
And here are some findings from today’s installment of the teacher quality series:
–The Atlanta cheating scandal is shining a spotlight on teacher job protections, which were abolished in 2000 under then-Gov. Roy Barnes but restored three years later by his successor, Gov. Sonny Perdue.
–Atlanta taxpayers are spending $1 million a month to keep about 130 educators named in the report on paid leave while the district prepares legal cases needed to fire them. The school district expects to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more in legal fees. That’s because schools must build legal cases against teachers with three or more years of experience, who can only be let go for eight allowable reasons. Teachers can appeal their firing all the way to the state Supreme Court.
–Supporters of the law say teachers need protection against unwarranted accusations or angry parents, or from the political maneuvering of meddling school board members. But critics say the laws are an impediment to Georgia’s attempt to improve the quality of the teaching workforce. As the pressure to improve test scores increases, they argue, so must the flexibility to remove bad teachers.
–The time and financial commitment required to fire a teacher in Georgia means only a small number of teachers in metro Atlanta districts - less than 1 percent of the workforce – are let go in any given year.
–It often takes a year to build a case against a teacher for low performance, but by law the case usually can’t include actions from previous school years. In other words, once a teacher signs a contract for the new school year, problems from the past can’t be used as evidence to fire them.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog