Would teacher quality improve if every year the worst teacher in the building was voted off the island, a la Survivor? That’s the suggestion of Dangerously Irrelevant’s Scott McLeod. His “modest proposal” for improving teacher quality suggests first doing everything possible to create a positive working climate. But since students, parents, administrators and other teachers know who is just going through the motions, he argues, every year they should all get a vote, with the worst underperformer sent off.
If you don’t have a robust teacher evaluation system (or if you’re worried about administrator bias), do it like they do on Survivor: everyone gets a vote and the one with the most votes leaves the island. Administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents – everyone involved with the school gets a vote. Dismissal by consensus. The more that are involved, (hopefully) the less likelihood of a witch hunt. If necessary, modify the master contract to make this happen.
I appreciate the intent of McLeod’s proposal. He’s absolutely right that the larger school community has excellent radar for who is breaking rocks and who is merely going through the motions. That said, his specific proposal would incentivize office politics as surely as test-driven accountability incentivizes test prep and curriculum narrowing. Plus there’s the problem of that long line of great teachers, which is still not forming outside struggling schools.
I once worked in a large corporation where the informal motto was “it’s better to be popular than competent.” It’s not a formula for long-term excellence. Still McLeod’s idea reminds us that there is something to be said for the wisdom of crowds, and that test scores are not the alpha and omega of great teaching.