Future of Teaching

Report: Older data show second chances for many incompetent teachers

City teachers were likely to end up back in classrooms after serving a suspension or paying a fine, even after accusations of incompetence or misconduct were substantiated, a researcher has found.

The report, authored by Katharine Stevens as part of her work as a graduate student at Columbia University, is based on a small number of cases. The newest cases analyzed are also seven years old—before a number of changes to the teacher-evaluation process. But it pulls back the curtain on an opaque process that’s at the center of legal efforts to overturn teacher protection laws, and includes a number of dramatic examples.

In one case, a first-grade teacher ordered students to beat up another student, resulting in a 90-day suspension for the teacher. In another, a sixth-grade teacher routinely called his students “idiots” and “retarded,” resulting in five-month suspension.

In these and 153 other cases over a 10-year period ending in 2007, all of the teachers were found guilty of the charges brought by the city. Some were fired, but in 61 percent of cases, third-party arbitrators ruled that rehabilitation was still possible.

The reason teachers got off with less severe penalties so often, the report contends, is that case officers have increasingly based their decisions on whether there was any possibility of remediation.

It’s unclear if the new teacher evaluation system implemented last year will change that. Under the new system, teachers need to be rated ineffective for two consecutive years to be brought up on incompetency charges, which can lead to termination. But, Stevens writes, the law still allows teachers to serve suspensions or pay fines if hearing officers believe rehabilitation or improvement are possible.

Stevens’ research focused on six categories of charges: incompetence, absenteeism, corporal punishment, sexual misconduct, multiple convictions, and unprofessionalism. Education Week has a graphic showing a breakdown of how penalties matched up with the type of offense.


Top teacher

Franklin educator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

Melissa Miller leads her students in a learning game at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Special School District in Williamson County. Miller is Tennessee's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher in Franklin is Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Miller

Melissa Miller, who works at Franklin Elementary School, received the 2018-19 honor for excellence in the classroom Thursday evening during a banquet in Nashville.

A teacher for 19 years, she is National Board Certified, serves as a team leader and mentor at her school, and trains her colleagues on curriculum and technology in Franklin’s city school district in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. She will represent Tennessee in national competition and serve on several working groups with the state education department.

Miller was one of nine finalists statewide for the award, which has been presented to a Tennessee public school teacher most every year since 1960 as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession. The finalists were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators; three regional winners were narrowed down following interviews.

In addition to Miller, who also won in Middle Tennessee, the state recognized Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, in East Tennessee. Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was this year’s top teacher in West Tennessee.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen praised the finalists for leading their students to impressive academic gains and growth. She noted that “teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement.”

Last year’s statewide winner was Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher in Nashville who has since moved to a middle school in the same Franklin district as Miller.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.


Have you thought about teaching? Colorado teachers union sells the profession in new videos

PHOTO: Colorado Education Association

There are a lot of factors contributing to a shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation. One of them — with potentially long-term consequences — is that far fewer people are enrolling in or graduating from teacher preparation programs. A recent poll found that more than half of respondents, citing low pay and lack of respect, would not want their children to become teachers.

Earlier this year, one middle school teacher told Chalkbeat the state should invest in public service announcements to promote the profession.

“We could use some resources in Colorado to highlight how attractive teaching is, for the intangibles,” said Mary Hulac, who teaches English in the Greeley-Evans district. “I tell my students every day, this is the best job.

“You learn every day as a teacher. I’m a language arts teacher. When we talk about themes, and I hear a story through another student’s perspective, it’s always exciting and new.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has brought some resources to help get that message out with a series of videos aimed at “up-and-coming professionals deciding on a career.” A spokesman declined to say how much the union was putting into the ad buy.

The theme of the ads is: “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Nowhere but in the education profession can a person have such a profound impact on the lives of students,” association President Amie Baca-Oehlert said in a press release. “We want to show that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession.”

As the union notes, “Opportunities to teach in Colorado are abundant.”

One of the ads features 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year Christina Randle.

“Are you ready to be a positive role model for kids and have a direct impact on the future?” Randle asks.

Another features an education student who was inspired by her own teachers and a 20-year veteran talking about how much she loves her job.

How would you sell the teaching profession to someone considering their career options? Let us know at [email protected].