Assorted bits that have a similar theme. And a possible solution to the problem.

March 2 Kansas Reporter: Kansas schools brace for 5,000 potential job cuts

Kansas school districts may cut more than 5,000 jobs across the state next year because of funding cuts, according to a new survey by the Kansas State Board of Education.

March 3 Wichita Eagle: Wichita school board members review layoff process

The layoff process for teachers puts those with less than three years’ experience, regardless of quality, among the first on the chopping block. At the start of Monday’s meeting, teachers who are considered among the best in the district, including two first-year teachers, were recognized by the board.

“We were recognizing first-year (teachers) for such a quality performance, and I get very concerned when we are saying that it could possibly be that teacher we would look at before one that’s on a disciplinary plan,” Arnold said.

March 2 New York Times: Building a Better Teacher

When researchers ran the numbers in dozens of different studies, every factor under a school’s control produced just a tiny impact, except for one: which teacher the student had been assigned to.

William Sanders, a statistician studying Tennessee teachers with a colleague, found that a student with a weak teacher for three straight years would score, on average, 50 percentile points behind a similar student with a strong teacher for those years.

Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist, found that while the top 5 percent of teachers were able to impart a year and a half’s worth of learning to students in one school year, as judged by standardized tests, the weakest 5 percent advanced their students only half a year of material each year.

Among the factors that do not predict whether a teacher will succeed: a graduate-school degree, a high score on the SAT, an extroverted personality, politeness, confidence, warmth, enthusiasm and having passed the teacher-certification exam on the first try.

March 2 New York Times: Head of the Class

Video clips of good teachers using great technique

March 6 Newsweek: Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers

In most states, after two or three years, teachers are given lifetime tenure. It is almost impossible to fire them. In New York City in 2008, three out of 30,000 tenured teachers were dismissed for cause. The percentage of teachers dismissed for poor performance in Chicago between 2005 and 2008 (the most recent figures available) was 0.1 percent. In Akron, Ohio, zero percent. In Toledo, 0.01 percent. In Denver, zero percent.

In no other socially significant profession are the workers so insulated from accountability.

Good teachers make a difference.

The sad thing? So do bad teachers.

So . . . keep the good ones, train the bad ones and get rid of those that can’t or won’t get better.

Simple, right? All we have to do is find a way to change the tenure system so bad teachers aren’t protected but still ensure some sort of “safe haven” for the teacher who gives the Board president’s son a failing grade, discover the secret to what makes a good teacher, develop a method for instilling those qualities in receptive teachers and have the guts to push truly bad teachers out the door.

Mmm . . . easy.

Part of the answer lies in helping teachers use the simple things that make a difference. Doug Lemov of Uncommon Schools has bundled together 49 simple techniques that taken together makes teaching better and learning easier. Titled Teach Like a Champion, the book lists a variety of things we all need to do get reach that top 5%.

Update – A “debate” between the authors of Building a Better Teacher and Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers has been posted at Newsweek. Adds nicely to the conversation.

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