Can you think of a teacher who isn't very effective in the classroom? Maybe it's a colleague...or someone your child had...or one from your own experiences as a student. Ineffective teachers not only make a negative impact during the time students sit in their classrooms, but some research suggests that there is a residual impact in following years. What can we do to change this situation?
It seems easy to place the responsibility on the principal. She or he is, after all, the instructional leader and evaluator. If hiring staff falls onto the shoulders of the principal, shouldn't firing? Of course, you'd hope that some sort of "intervention" might happen first, but my guess is that most teachers avoid this if it is suggested. Once you have been on an improvement plan, it becomes part of every job application you fill out in following years. This allows a lot of bad teachers to simply resign and get a job elsewhere---but doesn't really address the problem. Meanwhile, many principals are unwilling to take on The Union, even though there are provisions in the contract for removing ineffectual teachers from the classroom.
Perhaps it is the role of teacher leaders in the building to work with others to improve what happens in the classroom. As much as I like this idea (I am working toward a degree in Teacher Leadership, after all), this also poses some awkward issues. If teachers are working as peer coaches, this format could probably work. My experience, however, is that ineffective teachers are also those who are least likely to open their classrooms to others or seek out professional support. Is it possible that a principal could set an expectation that everyone participate in professional learning communities that include peer observation? Sure. Buy-in to such a program would be an issue, but perhaps it would remove the burden from teachers. Maybe some staff discussion about evaluation vs. observation would be useful.
What about the teacher who's not performing well? Shouldn't s/he recognize that the work being done in the classroom is not providing kids with the education they need? I have known a few teachers who do, but stay in the classroom because they are concerned about losing their retirement or because they only have a few more years until they retire. In the first case, they have felt trapped. They know they should leave, but the financial risk is too great. A valid concern---is there a way around that? The other general teacher type I run across is one who firmly believes that what happens in the classroom is about whatever the teacher wants, and not what kids need. This can be a fairly entrenched personal philosophy---it may even be what drew someone to the profession. Is it possible for them to shift their thinking and reframe their talents and abilities?
Parents and kids know very well which teachers are "good" at a certain school. They do get a voice in terms of classroom assignments, but other than that, they have no input into preventing other students from having a year of poor instruction. Should they be given a voice in the process? Could it be framed in such a way that keeps it from being personal...when we're talking about the needs of kids?
At a time when finding highly-qualified teachers is already difficult, the prospect of exiting teachers from the profession isn't necessarily welcome. Whose job is it to first point out that someone needs to make more of an effort in the classroom? Who provides the support to make the changes? And who monitors things and/or provides a graceful exit from teaching, if needed? How do we as an educational community give kids the best experience possible?