There were some belated comments to my recent education posts.
Regarding rubber rooms it was pointed out that it wouldn't matter that it is almost impossible to fire teachers after they get tenure if school districts never made mistakes when awarding tenure. This is true but unrealistic. Probably school districts could do a better job of selecting new teachers but perfection is impossible.
The New York City school district has been attempting to fire Colleen McGraham since 2005 when she developed a crush on a 15 year old boy. As of June 2008 the city had successfully appealed an arbitrator's 90 day suspension as too lenient but as far I can tell the case is still going on. Meanwhile she collects her salary.
In a similar case it took many years and multiple court appeals for the New York City school district to fire Cary Hershkowitz .
At least these teachers weren't criminally convicted of anything, unlike Alabama teacher Charlene Schmitz who continues to be paid while serving a 10 year sentence in federal prison for seducing a 14 year old.
I am unaware of any way that school districts can effectively screen out all teachers who will develop a propensity for this sort of thing.
These are extreme cases but it stands to reason that if it is difficult to fire teachers like these it will be almost impossible to fire teachers who are merely a little incompetent.
Regarding teachers there was some anecdotal evidence offered that teachers can make a differences. Some of this evidence was for remedial classes while I have been primarily talking about typical classes. More importantly I don't trust anecdotal evidence.
Consider this story :
Within a couple of weeks, Schonfeld, then a 46-year-old interior designer, got quickly and dramatically better, able once again to care for herself and her husband and daughter, no longer so convinced of her own worthlessness that she'd consider killing herself. For the next two months, she came back weekly for more interviews and tests and EEGs. And by the end of the study, Schonfeld seemed to be yet another person who owed a nearly miraculous recovery to the new generation of antidepressants -- in this case, venlafaxine, better known as Effexor.
A miracle drug? Not quite, she was on the placebo.