Put effective teachers in classrooms, and they give students the skills and motivation to learn. Such teachers are the single most important ingredient in student success in the school setting, research confirms. Yet the familiar rap against public school systems in general is that they protect bad teachers, that, in many instances, the teacher evaluation process routinely rates teachers as good, that teachers unions make it nearly impossible to fire ineffective teachers, and that weak teachers and the really good ones all receive basically the same compensation packages.
Administrators in the Akron Public Schools are fully aware of this perception. They have taken steps in recent years to ensure the negative view is not applicable in the district. Voters hold district officials accountable for the effectiveness of the teachers administrators assign to classrooms. The district takes the responsibility seriously.
This is one strong reason why we recommend a vote for Issue 61 on Nov. 6 to raise additional money to operate the city’s public schools.
School officials increasingly have focused not only on improving the effectiveness of teachers but also on getting rid faster of teachers who do not meet the higher standards for retention. Working with the Akron Education Association, the teachers union, the district has revised the teacher evaluation process for the first time in three decades. It is implementing a more rigorous system of assessing teachers, documenting strengths and weaknesses and providing easier access to professional development and training programs.
As important, the district has established a carefully defined and more transparent process, which better identifies teachers who need help to improve and makes it easier to wave goodbye to those who do not measure up, even with help.
Collaborating with the teachers union on evaluation and retention issues, which frequently are contentious, the district in effect has reduced the likelihood of distracting grievances, litigation and protracted delays in dismissing poorly performing teachers from the system. Further, a clear, fair and consistent process of weeding out bad teachers serves to reassure and raise the morale of those who meet performance standards.
Together, administrators and teachers’ representatives are showing the district is not a haven for teachers who fail to inspire learning.
ON SUNDAY: Reason No. 3 - A higher caliber of leadership in school buildings