TNTP today released a report based, in part, on a survey of teachers in Cincinnati. And I have two shocking bits of information to share with you about the report:
1.) One of the questions asked of teachers was the following:
“Are there continuing contract teachers in your school who you think should be terminated for poor instructional performance, but have not been?”
Having interacted with dozens, if not hundreds, of urban teachers over the past 5+ years I'm not sure if I can think of a single one that would say there's not a single teacher in their school who shouldn't be fired. I think teacher quality was far from the biggest problem at my school, but I would've responded "yes" to that question in a heartbeat -- there were clearly some teachers without whom the school might have done better. And I would think the vast majority of lawyers, nurses, social workers, accountants, etc. would say the same thing about their organizations -- there are some people that deserve to be fired. So I expected that the number of teachers who said "yes" would be somewhere around 90%. Maybe closer to 2/3 because of social desirability concerns. So I was surprised when I saw the actual number . . . 34%.
The number is almost laughably low. I find it almost completely implausible. I can think of three explanations:
1.) Cincinnati has an awful lot of schools without many remarkably bad teachers
2.) Teachers don't like saying bad things about each other
3.) Teachers have low expectations for one another
Either way, that this number is so low merits further investigation. Especially since only 57% of principals -- who are supposedly hamstrung by ridiculous regulations and dying to fire half their staffs -- responded affirmatively to the question.
2.) Even more shocking to me, Jamie Davies O'Leary over at Flypaper thinks that the 34% number is remarkably high. And I simply don't understand how one can interpret the number this way.
I'd like to challenge the Flypaper staff to name a field or profession or two in which we'd expect to find that fewer than one-third of the laborers thought they had at least a colleague or two who should be fired. The only possibility in my mind is people who work in very small offices and don't have many colleagues.
So, Cincinnati teachers either think their colleagues aren't all that bad, or aren't will to say so. What does this mean? Clearly, there are "bad" teachers out there -- just as there are bad policemen and bad accountants -- but maybe they aren't as prevalent as conventional wisdom seems to hold. Or maybe teachers stick together. There's an awful lot of evidence that teachers feel demeaned and victimized, so maybe it would make sense that they would want to protect their own.