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home : opinion : columns April 29, 2016

11/18/2012 6:00:00 AM
Editorial Column: Providing the tools to succeed

Rich Thurlow

Maybe you've heard about that place in the New York City school district where teachers go when they are no longer allowed in classrooms.

Some of you, I know, are already confused. How can they be teachers, and why do they need a place to go, if they are no longer allowed in classrooms?

The rest of us have heard the story, and it doesn't really matter if it is still true (I suspect it is), or if the school district(s) is/are trying a different approach.

The gist of it goes something like this: Over the years, a teacher has displayed an inability to teach, control a classroom, or perhaps acted in a way that would have led to jail time had it happened elsewhere. Because union rules make it impossible or almost impossible to fire tenured employees, they get paid for showing up and spending a required amount of time in a room. What they do there is up to them.

You can imagine what a New York school teacher gets paid. This is not a trivial amount of money that's wasted annually.

I bring this up to illustrate how Arizona is almost the exact opposite - and that it's a good thing. It's also an opportunity to say that I think KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks is doing a darn good job.

Steps toward accountability in education have resulted in measurements that show where we are failing and where we are succeeding. I've witnessed school boards and administrators pretend to do something about a problem, and in some places I've seen attempts to address problems thwarted by unions.

Arizona does the right thing by opening education up to competition and letting parents decide what works best for their children. The leadership in the Kingman Unified School District realizes that marketing doesn't work without a successful product (good scores on standardized tests), and it strikes me they are doing everything possible to raise the scores of students and schools. Most obviously, they are moving principals in a bid to get them where they can be more successful in terms of boosting student achievement.

That's a hard lesson, especially in an occupation where the norm is somewhere between what Arizona is allowed to do and what New York isn't allowed to do when it comes to employees.

KUSD is also offering more for gifted students and students who prefer to work online, plus other stuff. As an adult who cares about the future of the country, I don't care how students learn, I just want them to learn.

For that reason, I'm also pleased parents have the Kingman Academy schools as an option, plus the online and home school choices and whatever else I may have missed.

Give credit also to the Legislature for not limiting choices.

As an interested observer, I know not every student is cut out for college. But it is in my best interests that those not going on to more education can read, do basic math and reason out a statement to determine if it makes sense. It is surprisingly easy to make it on your own in this country once you know the basics and have a little bit of common sense.

And as any teacher will tell you, it all starts at home. Parents have to care, they have to make their kids understand that what they do now is so important relative to what they are doing in 10, 20 and 30 years.

It's up the kids to use the tools that will let them succeed.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, November 19, 2012
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

When you mentioned the place that teachers go when no longer allowed to teach (it's known as the "rubber room"), the first thing that popped into my mind was the middle school principal here who was transferred rather than fired after it was determined he was too incompetant to remain where he was.


Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Article comment by: Just Thought You Should Know it Also Takes Place Here

Mr. Editor, "(w)hat they do there is up to them." applies here.

In the 1980's a teacher in the junior high with "deminished" teaching skills proved Kingman, Arizona is decades ahead of NYC. Things deteriorated to a point where she was literally run out of her room by the students. Her discipline skills were non-existent. She was reassigned continuely as principal after principal shifted her to other grades and schools. She taught enough years to have attained the top salary. Her last assignment was to push a cart from classroom to classroom giving individualized lessons in a one-to-one setting in the back of the classroom with the regular teacher present. Teachers all felt sorry for her but were angry the administration failed to fire her. She was negatively impacting the morale in the schools not to mention our profession.

Oh yes, she was tenured and belonged to the Arizona Education Association. We all realized as I suspect she did nothing protects one if incompetent. It only allows for a well defined termination process.

The blame for her collecting a good salary for what volunteers do rests with the administration. Tenure and/or unions can not force an school or business for that matter to keep an under-producing employee. Prinicipals and business management are too lazy to properly document a situation. The district's administration felt it cheaper and easier to just let her wander around as opposed to take the necessary action. The blame for such situations lies squarely on the backs of the administration not the unions. I can assure you teachers know the poor teachers and they and their unions are powerless to do anything about removing them. That power again lies with the administration.

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