Picture credit - Bad Teacher, Sony Pictures

This is the analysis of the author and not necessarily the views of AllOnGeorgia. 

Teaching students often necessitates an exceptional professional who gravitates toward helping children succeed, but is the teaching profession for everyone? Why do some continue to stay in the profession when their performance is consistently poor?

recent study (June 2018) completed by Andrew Saultz from Miami University found that teachers were not terminated for poor performance, but more often they were dismissed from not going through the motions of not being a good employee.

The study examined teacher dismissals in Georgia, particularly in Atlanta Public Schools,  DeKalb County, and Fulton County school districts. Saultz looked at 136 cases from all three school districts which employ thousands of teachers in the Atlanta metro area from 2011 to 2017.

The main finding of the study revealed that a very small portion of teachers were dismissed for poor teaching; however, teachers were often terminated or non-renewed for issues related to professionalism or illegal activity.

The 92 cases reviewed from Atlanta Public Schools discovered that more than three times as many teachers were fired for not having secured or maintained necessary training. Other leading factors were teachers not reporting for work during pre-planning, undue physical force on students, and submitting questionable receipts and requests for reimbursement. With comments related to teaching performance, most comments centered around not keeping a clean classroom, updating teacher websites, and not attending required meetings.

For Dekalb and Fulton County schools, insubordination and incompetence lead the count on why teachers were fired and rarely did many get fired for poor teaching performance.

Teacher evaluations all over the country have changed to evaluate a more effective teacher in the classroom since the adoption of Race to the Top dollars given out by the Obama administration, but those efforts have created chaotic and questionable data to evaluate teachers. This chaos is said to be caused from a concept known as the “Widget Effect” which essentially finds that less than one-percent of classroom teachers receive an “unsatisfactory rating.”

Amid the adoption of new teacher evaluations in Georgia via federal incentives from the Obama Administration, along with state legislatures change in state law,  Georgia adopted teacher-evaluation reforms directed at obtaining a more accurate measurement of teacher effectiveness. However, recent research found that despite these large-scale improvement efforts, teachers still receive “Unsatisfactory” ratings less than one percent of the time. During the piloting of the new evaluation, the Georgia Department of Education pilot found less that one percent of the teachers were ineffective, but the State Board moved forward with the evaluation system.

The revamped evaluations give the perception that almost 100 percent of employees are effective at their jobs. Moreover, teachers acknowledge that many of their colleagues shouldn’t be teaching.

One of the most important factors in moving the needle on student achievement is placing an effective teacher in the classroom, but the phenomenon known as the “Widget Effect” is often pervasive in school culture, and poor teaching goes unaddressed. In the report on the “Widget Effect,” the research found the key findings:

  • All teachers are rated good or great. Less than 1 percent of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, making it impossible to identify truly exceptional teachers.
  • Professional development is inadequate. Almost 3 in 4 teachers did not receive any specific feedback on improving their performance in their last evaluation.
  • Novice teachers are neglected. Low expectations for beginning teachers translate into benign neglect in the classroom and a toothless tenure process.
  • Poor performance goes unaddressed. Half of the districts studied have not dismissed a single tenured teacher for poor performance in the past five years.

Despite this call to action from the aforementioned research to improve teacher evaluations through Obama’s massive education reforms, ineffective teachers remain in classrooms while many highly effective teachers go unnoticed.  Even with the new efforts to evaluate teachers, the “Widget Effect” still influences teacher evaluations.






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