Thursday, March 22, 2007

Unexamined assumptions in Getting Down to Facts

The educational pundits who seldom spend time in a classroom ( like the Bee’s Daniel Weintraub) have quickly focused in on the recommendation from Getting Down to Facts, to give Principals the power to dismiss teachers who they regard as failing.
A problem with this recommendation is that it carries a number of unstated, and unwarranted, assumptions.
The recommendation assumes that principals are better prepared and more professional than teachers and that they have the interests of students are their first priority. I know of no research evidence to support these assumptions.
In over 34 years of working in schools and working with principals all that I can assume from the data is that principals want a different job. In teacher preparation I frequently encounter people who have not even taught yet, but they plan to become principals. They want the shortest route to the top. They do not want a job working with children and youth. They want a job that is primarily management of resources. And, where they can manage teachers. And where they can get paid much more. During their first years of training most principals spend far more time expelling students and punishing students than time spent educating students.
If any readers have evidence that principals have more professionalism and/or more concern for children than teachers, please let me know. My first hand experience contradicts this assumption.
The argument that to promote quality education principals need to be able to dismiss a few incompetent teachers. Well perhaps.
Again from decades of working in schools and participating in teacher and administrator preparation I then offer a parallel argument. I could accept the process of principals having the power to dismiss a few less than competent teachers – if- and only if- teachers had the power to dismiss incompetent principals and superintendents. There is no evidence that the percentage of incompetent teachers is higher or lower than the percentage of incompetent principals- and I suggest superintendents.
Also, as suggested by author Kathy Emory in an excellent post on, we should have a process for measuring the quality of researchers who reside in universities and who write reports – Like Getting Down to Facts.

Duane Campbell
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