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December 08, 2005

Belly of the beast

Geez, I'm stuck on pigs; time to change the subject for a moment. Hmmm, how 'bout teacher tenure.

Scott Reeder, capital bureau chief for the D/A and other Small Newspaper Group papers, set out to quantify the effort to weed under-performing teachers out of the schools. Mind-boggling amount of work.
The whole report is at The Hidden Costs of Tenure.

Some people are attacking it as one-sided or anti-teacher, but most see a problem and some are willing to talk about most anything to fix it. The Hidden Costs site includes a reaction page. Among other things, there are direct links to three threads on Rich Miller's blog.

Like most people, I'm bifurcated about teachers. Had some pretty good ones, some average ones and some that could have made an illustrated sex manual boring.

Seen the same divide as we've herded a couple of kids through school.
Ran into some great teachers, and the average ones. But we also saw too many of what's known at our house as time-servers and burn-outs.
They're no majority be any means, but I've encountered them at every one of the several schools I've become aquainted with over the last 22 years. They hurt everybody.

To try to devise a fair, effective means of weeding them out is truly to enter the belly of the beast. My lifetime of experience with school says we gotta try.

Posted by jcb at December 8, 2005 10:37 PM


I thought it was onesided at first, but the more I thought the more balance I see. It's not being unfair to good teachers to say what all we parents know, that there are teachers who just shouldn't be teaching. it'd be great to relace them.

Posted by: anon at December 8, 2005 11:26 PM

As the child of a long-time teacher, I saw the other side of the schoolhouse, and my mother made no secret of the fact that some of her comrades were doing a lousy job. In one case, it was common knowledge that the worst teacher in the district was the wife of the superintendent.

I've had children in both public and private schools. About 20 percent of the teachers they had in public school were poor or downright incompetent (and a couple of them were cruel in their remarks to the children). We had not a single bad teacher in the private system and there's a simple reason. Private schools have to convince parents that they are worth the tuition. One bad teacher can cause families to leave, and so private-school administrators keep a close eye on the staff. The underperformers are let go.

It's a healthy feedback system that's totally lacking in the public school system. Abolish tenure and we can set it in motion.

Posted by: Anonymous at December 9, 2005 09:32 AM

How does one go about getting rid of self-serving, jadded reporters and columnist? My lifetime of expereince with media tells me we gotta try.

Posted by: thetruth at December 11, 2005 10:48 AM

Hosannahs to Scott Reeder for an amazing series of articles. 1500 FOIA requests? Can you imagine the national press going to such trouble when they can get an "unnamed source" to give them a front page scoop----whether it's true or not.

The series must have struck a chord because several days ago my son brought home a note from the Riverdale PTA officers (although they claim they are speaking as "a concerned Riverdale parent")urging people to take action by writing letters to the editor or even canceling their subscriptions ($200 down the drain!). All this hysteria because Reeder featured a former Riverdale student with an unsatisfactory experience. I think I know who the teachers were who provided said "unsatisfactory experience", but will refrain from naming names in order to protect the guilty

Good job Scott and the D/A!

Posted by: paladin at December 17, 2005 12:58 PM

Thanks for the restraint, Paladin. Thetruth is maintaining a higher tone on a blog is tough these days.

Riverdale reaction to be expected and is understandable. But is misses the point that the school, in the end, succeeded for the young lady.

But wouldn't it be nice if the good teachers at Riverdale and everywhere else didn't have to spend time overcoming a colleague's shortcomings? I'm pretty sure most teachers would say "yes."
Parents, too.

So let's talk. Scott's work provides the factual foundation we need. (I've done some pretty big document searches over the years, but I'm in awe of what he did.)

The package is online at thehiddencostsoftenure.com. There's a reaction page.

Posted by: jcb at December 18, 2005 11:21 AM

Unfortunately, it appears Riverdale has gone into defensive crouch mode. Yesterday we (and every other Riverdale parent) received a letter from the Riverdale Superintendent, including a copy of the letter to the editor he had sent to D/A and a copy (front page only) of the December 6th article about Heidi Sample, for those who had not seen it.

In his cover letter, he praises the faculty, staff, Board of Ed., Admn., PTA, etc. and thanks all who sent letters, canceled subscriptions (I still can't believe anyone would toss $200 away) and other modes of protest. I know this is the natural reaction to negative press, but it does not encourage change----which we need.

I never gave a thought to the fact that a former Riverdale student was featured in Reeder's series, but after I got the note from the PTA----uh, I mean "concerned parents", I began to wonder how Reeder chose Ms. Sample out of the many examples I'm sure exist in IL. I've looked around some for an email address for Mr. Reeder, but couldn't find one. I would be interested to know why he chose Ms. Sample.

Posted by: paladin at December 18, 2005 12:29 PM

Email (included with byline on all the stories) is sreeder@thehiddencostsoftenure.com.

Posted by: jcb at December 18, 2005 12:48 PM

Oops! OK, thanks jcb!

Posted by: paladin at December 18, 2005 01:09 PM