Why it’s so hard to fire bad teachers
Canada suffers from some of the same problems we do:
Inadequate teaching has been shown to contribute to dropout rates, low test scores and a dislike for school. So severe are the implications, says Brendan Menuey, an assistant principal in Virginia, that poor teaching is tantamount to "educational malpractice." Yet in Canada, teacher incompetence prompts so few administrators to pursue termination that the Ontario principal insisted that not even the name of her school board be published, because it would almost certainly identify her. According to Barrie Bennett, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the dismissal process is so onerous, the risk of reprisal from teachers' unions so great, that "most principals find it's not worth the effort." Instead, they approve transfers, or hide struggling teachers where their deficiencies can go unnoticed. The result however, is this: a system that keeps incompetent teachers in the classroom.
Why it's so hard to fire bad teachers
Most principals would rather hide or transfer incompetent teachers than try to oust them
What it took for one Ontario principal to rid her school of an incompetent teacher is a process she's not fond of revisiting. It began in September 2007, when she inherited a teacher whose performance was already under review. Despite a file thick with evidence of inadequacy, the principal helped draft an "improvement plan"—a requirement in the provincial Education Act—and dipped into school funds to pay for substitutes while the struggling teacher attended workshops. But, says the junior school principal, it soon emerged that there was "a serious, basic problem of not understanding"—which continued even after the teacher knew she was under review. Students shuffled through reading levels without proof of assessment. Parents complained about spelling test words that weren't sent home. And the teacher submitted grades for computer class when, in fact, her "inability to use technology" meant the monitors "were rarely turned on," says the principal. Still, it took months of paperwork and meetings with union representatives before she was able to inch even one step closer to dismissal. "It was very upsetting," she says. "I wouldn't choose to do it again unless I absolutely had to."