New York City Beefs Up Efforts to Get Poor Teachers Out of Class

Published February 1, 2008

New York City is devoting more resources to efforts aimed at getting incompetent teachers out of the classroom, with New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein introducing the Teacher Performance Unit, a group dedicated to pushing through the long process for teacher removal.

“[T]he disciplinary system for tenured teachers is so time-consuming and burdensome that what is already a stressful task becomes so onerous that relatively few principals are willing to tackle it,” Klein told The New York Times for a November 15 story. “As a result, in a typical year only about one-hundredth of 1 percent of tenured teachers are removed for ineffective performance,” Klein noted.

Only 10 to 15 tenured teachers a year are forced to leave the school system entirely because of incompetence. But as of late 2007, more than 700 had been removed from classrooms and required to report to “rubber rooms” where they are separated from students but continue to receive full pay.

Forward Progress

The Teacher Performance Unit, established in November 2007, aims to speed up the teacher removal process.

The unit consists of five lawyers who, as Democrats for Education Reform put it in a November 16 post on its Web site, “engage in due process up the wazoo. They will eat due process for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They will wake up in cold sweats at night from dreaming about due process. They will scream ‘due process!!!’ in the throes of passion. Because that is what the union has demanded through collective bargaining.”

‘Sufficient’ Support

Klein also has hired a team of five consultants to work with principals to improve the performance of struggling teachers.

Klein told The New York Times the Teacher Performance Unit “represents a significant infusion of resources that will ensure we have the capacity to seek the removal of all ineffective tenured teachers who, in spite of receiving the time and support sufficient to allow them to substantially improve, won’t or can’t do it.” The program is slated to cost $1 million a year.

The teachers union objects to the project. Randi Weingarten, president of the New York United Federation of Teachers, labeled the team a “teacher gotcha unit” and “disgusting.”

Her comments suggest teachers are the union’s priority, even at the expense of students.

“We’ve always been concerned that the first thing that would happen after somebody put out progress reports would be principals would go after teachers,” Weingarten told The New York Times.

Ryan Bedford ([email protected]) is a legal research assistant and labor policy analyst for the Labor Policy Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank in Olympia, Washington.

For more information …

“Pantsuits and Candlelight Vigils,” Democrats for Education Reform, November 16, 2007: