IN FOCUS: Firing teachers
05/12/2014 12:00 AM
05/09/2014 6:30 PM
Lawmakers should make firing bad teachers easier
At last someone is seeing the problem with education and teachers in South Carolina for what it is. A Senate proposal would be a step in the right direction (“Plan to make firing teachers easier likely dead for year,” April 4), and Sen. Paul Thurmond, who proposed the measure, and others deserve credit.
This is not an indictment on the many effective and competent teachers who help our students realize their full potential. The challenges and sacrifices that teachers make are enormous, and they deserve more recognition and remuneration than they have now.
However, it is high time we addressed headlong the outdated policies that make it difficult to fire ineffective teachers. Unfortunately, the schools and the districts know these problems exist but are handicapped because of seniority rules, among other factors. The idea that a beginning but competent teacher is not hired or is fired first needs to change for the sake of our children’s future.
Keeping incompetent teachers in our schools makes no good sense, but it won’t do us any good to engage in witchhunting or unfairly fire teachers; a reasonable balance is critical for ensuring quality and adequate remuneration for the many great teachers in our state.
If we fail to address this growing sense of complacency among teachers, it will erode quality and effectiveness in our schools.
No meaningful change will occur until we change the rules, irrespective of whose ox is gored. Only then would we begin to experience that positive shift in student performance.
Districts hire the teachers who are available
No one is likely to dispute Cindi Scoppe’s opinion (“The cost of one bad teacher,” April 23) that a bad teacher can leave students with deficits in their learning. However, her solution to make firing teachers easier has two glaring flaws from my perspective as a 40-year classroom veteran.
Many districts have little choice in who they hire. Teaching is not considered a lucrative career by top students due to salaries, working conditions and abuse from parents and students. We lose one-third of those hired within their first three years. Districts are left to choose from what is offered to them.
The current method for firing teachers is an attempt to make it as objective as possible. It also protects good teachers. Without such safeguards, I would have been fired by a vengeful principal who openly despised me after I refused to violate the law at his instruction. The process could be shortened but is necessary to measure the quality instruction without judging personalities.
My hope is that one day South Carolina will see public education as our most crucial investment as once promoted by former Gov. Dick Riley. He truly made a difference in his time. No one has since then.
Sarah Jane Byars
Less job security won’t give us better teachers
Cindi Ross Scoppe correctly notes that bad math teachers can cause long-term problems for students (“The cost of one bad teacher,” April 23). She goes on to argue that teachers should have less job security, and should be easier to fire.
But she undercuts her argument when she offers almost no substantive criticism of her education, and instead launches into a bizarre rant about her calculus teacher’s appearance. This suggests that math teachers should have more job security, not less. Would you want Ms. Scoppe to have the authority to fire you?
Graduate students teach calculus at the University of South Carolina, and prospective college students should know that we take great pride in the high quality of their teaching. But beware: We do allow them to dress like hippies.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics
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