Teachers should be held accountable for job performance


By Michelle Hu
<[email protected]>

There are quite a few successful Michelles in the world now – Kwan, the figure skater; Wie, the golfer; Obama, the First Lady; and now, Rhee, the educative administrator. She’s the current chancellor of Washington D.C. schools, and has almost completely shifted the blame from financing to teacher competence.

She’s absolutely crazy. In the approximate year-and-a-half that she’s been in her position, she’s closed 21 of the 143 schools she oversees, fired more than 100 staff members, 270 teachers and 36 principals. She even dismissed the principal of her own daughters’ elementary school.

She’s also brilliant. She’s revolutionized the art of school administration. Granted, she’s quite lucky. Rhee has the best bureaucratic support in the form of Adrian Fenty, mayor of D.C. Every move she’s made has been backed by Fenty, giving her carte blanche in anything she wishes to accomplish.

Her plan? To rid the system of adult incompetence. This has angered teachers’ unions across the nation, but her actions could actually make a difference. She’s beginning to treat teachers like any other professional in the free market: their paychecks are dependent upon job performance.

At this school, teachers receive an average salary of $51,078 based upon experience and college degrees earned. Job performance plays little to no role in determining this number.

In the real world, this determination raises serious concern. Surgeons are rated by their successes and lack of patient deaths. Salespeople receive commission based upon the quantitative sales they make. Why then, aren’t teachers held to the same standard?

Rhee’s plan hopes to answer this question with a powerful, resounding “they should be.” All of the staff members that she’s fired so far are ones that she has deemed incompetent, and the remaining teachers’ job performance are constantly evaluated. She’s given them a deal: keep job security or trade it for a double salary. This treads upon the greatest fears teachers feel, which is why unions are up in arms about the whole situation.

It’s not at all unreasonable. Basically, Rhee’s asking teachers to prove their worth, which, in a corporate world, is the only way to survive. Granted, a school system is far from a corporate environment, but this way of survival may just work.

However, Rhee still has problems to iron out. It is difficult to appoint a watchdog, and even if she does, there is no measurable standard to account for external factors. Factors such as classroom demographics, course level and parent involvement can all raise or lower scores significantly.

So far, Rhee has been successful. Under more capable educators, the district’s test scores have risen 8 to 11 percent in both elementary and high schools.

Rhee’s plan is admirable. She’s fought powerful unions and legislators (since Democrats are in support of teachers’ unions) in order to achieve measurable progress. With such backing from the mayor and with a keen sense of business politics, she’s inherited the perfect opportunity to reform. I can only hope that other districts follow in her example. Michelle Hu is a News editor for the HiLite. Contact her at [email protected]