Does firing teachers lead to school improvement?

USA Today reports:

Richard Lemons of The Education Trust, an advocacy group for low-income students, says restructuring [schools by replacing staff] “doesn’t seem to be a magic bullet,” but that with great principals, proven teachers and a rigorous curriculum, it can produce “remarkable turnarounds.” Though turnarounds may bring talented staff to needy schools, the hard part “is actually retaining them” for a few years.

In an extensive look at school restructuring, the Center on Education Policy, a centrist Washington, D.C., think tank, last December found that replacing staff helped improve many schools to the point they could exit “school improvement” sanctions laid out under No Child Left Behind. But it noted that most of the successful schools had a large pool of applicants, a plan to overcome a “failing” reputation, union support and hiring systems that didn’t rely on principals alone.

In about half of the cases studied, schools didn’t improve much. In many schools, union rules compromised restaffing, and principals said they couldn’t find replacement staff that was much better. In other cases, principals said they spent so much time over the summer hiring staff that they had “little time to plan for the new school year.”

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