Good news: the most consistently thoughtful education blog (Bridging Differences) is back in business. Diane Ravitch leads off with a piece on the new reform efforts in education and how Democrats seem to be adopting the ideas of Republicans. Although it's only tangentially related, it reminded me of a question I wanted to ask.
A lot has been written about Michelle Rhee's plan to give teacher's huge raises in exchange for getting rid of tenure -- I assume that she's planning on firing a lot of teachers, otherwise I don't see the point of the plan. But here's my question: who's going to replace the fired teachers?
I don't know the situation in D.C. well enough, so it might be the case that the D.C. Teaching Fellows and other efforts can recruit enough teachers to replace whoever gets fired in this plan, but more generally speaking I always hesitate to believe that simply firing all the bad teachers will solve our problems. Beyond the fact that it's harder to identify "bad" teachers than we might want to believe, we often forget to ask whether there are better teachers waiting in the wings.
As an anecdotal example, let me talk even more about my school. My school was not the worst one in the Bronx, but about a quarter of the teachers left each year. My second year we had a handful of positions that remained vacant for all or most of the year (after two chorus teachers were driven off they couldn't seem to find a third). The new principal, however, decided she needed to go after a number of teachers she didn't like in order to replace them with her people. I'm not going to say that every teacher in my school was nominated for teacher of the year, but what, exactly, is the point of firing teachers when you don't have anybody with which to replace them?