As part of their respective attempts to close achievement gaps among high- and low-poverty schools, the superintendents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, and Grand Rapids, Michigan, are each proposing replacing teachers at their poorest-performing schools.
In Charlotte, Superintendent Peter Gorman wants to forcibly reassign veteran and National Board-certified teachers to where the need is the greatest. According to Gorman, the district's current offer of a $15,000 signing bonus and 15 percent pay increase for teachers who work in high-need schools hasn't attracted enough experienced teachers. "It is very clear to me that trying to pull people in with incentives will not completely close the gap. We will have to push some people to move to certain sites against their will," he explained. Not surprisingly, teachers are up in arms (and apparently taking pay cuts to leave the district), arguing that Gorman's plan amounts to a "punishment" for effective and experienced teachers, especially those who earned National Board certification.
Taking a cue from Chicago's superintendent who is dismissing staff from eight low-performing schools and asking them to reapply for their jobs (see January 2008 TQB), Grand Rapids Superintendent Bernard Taylor wants his district's 250 high school teachers to reapply for their jobs this year. In exchange, he's offering principals more say in their schools' staffing decisions.
Needless to say, the city's local teachers union, the Grand Rapids Education Association, is not pleased with these developments. Union President Paul Helder has accused Taylor of "declaring war" on teachers. Taylor is arguing, however, that the current teachers contract gives him the authority to reassign teachers based on their performance and principals' input--rather than on seniority. He explained: "I don't want people to say, 'This is my assignment.' I want them to be able to say, 'This is where I want to be.' No one is going to lose their job, but after hearing about how a school is going to work, some might ask, 'Is this really where I want to be?'"
(Whew! Where are we?)