Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Jay Nichols says Vermont teachers find their way to the classroom with the best intentions, but argues things don't always work out.
"Most people who go into the education profession do so because they love kids, but we also want teachers that have strong instructional skills," he said.
Nichols says about 1-percent of his teachers don't have those skills, but that the longer they're teaching the harder it is to get rid of them. "What's at risk for our kids is being stuck with ineffective teachers," he said.
Right now state language points to 'just and sufficient cause' as reasons for letting teachers go. Nichols says the clause is ambiguous and wants it defined as two years in a row of unsatisfactory evaluations -- that would then allow school districts to consider not renewing a contract. "By putting this into law we can say as a state that we are serious about instruction, we're serious about student learning and if you are not being effective we are going to give the administration and the school boards fair chance to move in different direction," Nichols said.
"It's a bad idea. There is no evidence that what we have is not working," said Martha Allen, President of the Vermont NEA, the union representing thousands of teachers across the state. She says probationary periods for new teachers and improvement plans for educators who have been around for decades help weed out poorly performing teachers. But she could not provide specific numbers of teachers who leave the profession through those avenues.
"My concern about this two evaluations and then the school board can boot you out is, who is doing these evaluations? Has that person been trained? Are they just angry at that person? Is there a personality conflict? There are all these kinds of problems that can exist because of that," Allen said.
Nichols says he has shared his idea with lawmakers in Montpelier but that it has seen little traction. He points to the power of the teachers union as part of the problem and says Vermont kids are losing out. "Our kids are too valuable. We need to have a system that makes it easier to move those people out of the profession -- have them do something else," Nichols said.
Right now the proposal lacks a sponsor in the legislature. Senate Education Chairman Dick McCormack said he does not feel pressured by the NEA and is willing to look at the Superintendent's proposal.
Vermont School Board Association Executive Director Jeff Francis said the Association has no formal stance on the proposal, but that he's receptive to the idea and would give it more attention if it gains traction at the statehouse.
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