By Ben Velderman
WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is receiving all kinds of favorable media coverage for her recent comments that incompetent educators should be removed from the classroom.
Weingarten’s headline-making remarks were made during a speech to AFT members on Monday.
About halfway through her 4,400-word talk, Weingarten spoke about an AFT proposal that calls “for all prospective teachers to get ample experience in real classrooms alongside practicing teachers, and to meet a high standard – like the bar exam or medical boards – so they are ready from day one, not left to sink or swim.”
Weingarten continued: “If someone can’t teach after they’ve been prepared and supported, they shouldn’t be in our profession.”
That was all it took for journalists to report that a high-ranking teacher union leader called for bad teachers to be fired.
It’s being treated as big news by education reporters all across the internet.
There’s only one problem with it – it’s not news.
Notice the huge caveat in Weingarten’s comment: “after they’ve been prepared and supported.”
Weingarten is actually saying that incompetent and ineffective teachers should have lots of time and assistance to improve their classroom performance.
In Weingarten’s view, a teacher should only be dismissed if he or she doesn’t show improvement after various interventions.
Since those interventions could take a couple of school years – during which numerous students would be subjected to subpar instruction – how are Weingarten’s comments newsworthy?
There’s also the matter of determining which teachers are ineffective and in need of remediation.
Weingarten and other teacher union leaders have a history of resisting efforts to make student test scores a major factor in determining a teacher’s overall job performance. That would be a sound and fairly simple method.
Instead they want school leaders to produce a lengthy paper trail in order to identify ineffective teachers and follow it with a lengthy intervention process. The bad teachers Weingarten speaks of would be left in the classroom for several years while all this is happening.
How would those policies improve the quality of the teaching profession?
Unfortunately most reporters won’t ask those questions. Instead, they’ll just report that Weingarten favors firing bad teachers, which will trick a more than a few parents and taxpayers into thinking that the nation’s teacher unions suddenly care about improving public education.