“Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs lambasted teacher unions today,” reports the Associated Press, “claiming no amount of technology in the classroom would improve public schools until principals could fire bad teachers.” Mickey Kaus approves and says he wishes Barack Obama had talked about getting “rid of people” rather than offering a vaguer call for “accountability.”
This sounds commonsensical, but my understanding is that the reason politicians rarely push for it is that the actual payoff is very, very low. The issue is that there isn’t this vast pool of highly effective potential hires out there. The schools with serious teacher-quality problems tend to have them because the better teachers, by and large, don’t want to work there and schools have problems filling all the slots with minimally qualified people. The real action (also disliked by teacher unions, if pissing off unions is your goal) is in the certification process, who counts as a qualified teacher, and what counts as an effective teacher (here’s where the accountability comes in). If in the future that created a situation where there were tons of people looking to break into the teaching field then it might make sense to expend political capital on making it easier to fire people.