The District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has been treating its teachers as though they are normal, private-sector employees, and it’s paying off for students.
“Since 2012, we have been studying IMPACT, a seminal effort by the [DCPS] to link teacher retention and pay to their performance,” Education Next reported recently. “Under IMPACT, the district sets detailed standards for high-quality instruction, conducts multiple observations, assesses individual performance based on evidence of student progress, and retains and rewards teachers based on annual ratings. Looking across our analyses, we see that under IMPACT, DCPS has dramatically improved the quality of teaching in its schools—likely contributing to its status as the fastest-improving large urban school system in the United States as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”
DCPS has improved teaching and student achievement by dismissing “the majority of very low performing teachers and [replacing] them with teachers whose students did better,” the report says. In other words, DCPS teachers are now being held to the same standards as everyone who works in the private sector.
Teachers have a tough job; there’s no question about that. Molding the minds of young people is no easy task, and many teachers work long hours for mediocre pay. But there’s a myth in this country, perpetrated primarily by teachers unions, that public school teachers are a protected class that is never deserving of rebuke. However, the truth of the matter is public education, and government in general, tends to attract the worst types of employees: those who want a cushy job with lots of perks that is nearly impossible to lose.
Look, for instance, at some of the notorious practices teachers unions are infamous for championing: last in, first out (LIFO) hiring and firing procedures, tenure, and strikes. These union-endorsed systems would surely never survive in a truly free market, and neither would public schools.
LIFO assumes the last person hired is the least qualified and therefore the least valuable employee, which is a completely absurd policy. Tenure arguably has its place in private universities, where professors are deemed to deserve it, but to force taxpayers to foot the bill for worthless public school teachers simply because they’ve refused to leave a job they aren’t good at is simply unfair and, in some cases, immoral. For instance, many teachers have been caught doing dangerous and perverted things, but because teachers unions have forced school districts to adopt lenient disciplinary policies and procedures, these degenerates are allowed to keep their jobs.
And let’s not forget about the strikes: Teachers—none of whom were forced to enter the teaching profession and all of whom, I presume, knew the costs and rewards of their chosen occupation—amass a gang and protest the “injustices” of having to do the jobs they were hired to do. Meanwhile, children miss valuable classroom time, parents are inconvenienced, and the teachers, more often than not, are rewarded for their tantrum to the tune of millions of dollars of your hard-earned money.
When will the madness end? When will our country wake up to the reality that holding public school teachers accountable and rewarding or punishing them according to their merit, or lack thereof, is good for schools, children, families, and society?
“The DCPS story shows that it may be politically challenging to adopt high-stakes evaluation systems, but it is not impossible,” Education Next concluded. “And it shows that well-designed and carefully implemented teacher evaluations can serve as an important district improvement strategy—so long as states and districts are also willing to make tough, performance-based decisions about teacher retention, development, and pay.”
Treating public school teachers like the rest of us is a step toward improving the failing government school system. Actually privatizing the system would fix it altogether.