Why Don't Teachers Get Fired for Poor Teaching?

Why Don't Teachers Get Fired for Poor Teaching?
Laura Greene/The High Point Enterprise via AP

Last month, new research from Miami University's Andrew Saultz found additional evidence that teachers are not usually dismissed for poor performance, but rather for not going through the mechanics of being a good employee. After analyzing 136 teacher dismissal cases in three large Atlanta-area districts — districts with tens of thousands of teachers — from 2011 to 2017, Saultz found that just four percent mentioned actual teaching practice as a primary reason for dismissal. Essentially, a very small fraction of teachers are dismissed in the first place, and of those who are, a small fraction are dismissed for poor teaching performance. Instead, Saultz found that teachers are more often terminated or non-renewed for issues of professionalism or illegal activity.

In Atlanta Public Schools, for example, just three of 92 cases directly mentioned teaching practice or evaluations. Meanwhile, more than three times as many teachers were dismissed for not having secured or maintained necessary training. Other cases mention teachers “fail[ing] to report to work during pre-planning days,” “us[ing] undue physical force with students (hitting, pinching, grabbing) with the intention of producing discomfort,” and “submi[tting] of questionable receipts and requests for reimbursement.” Even in cases that did mention teaching, ineffective teaching and poor evaluation ratings were mentioned after comments about outdated webpages, attendance at meetings, and untidy classrooms.

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