We have probably all experienced the best and worst kinds of educators. They have imprinted themselves into our brains by their teaching styles, the incredibly good and the equally incredibly bad. Like this guy:

The thing about teachers, though, that Joel Klein so scarily addresses in his LinkedIn Influencer article, ‘The Single Most Important Factor in Improving Education: Great Teachers,’ is that it’s too darn expensive to fire even the most abhorrent educators.

That’s right. It costs too much money – to the tune of $300K and two years time per teacher in New York City – to effectively wipe clean the roster of bad educators from a school district. Klein, CEO at Amplify, a new education subsidiary of News Corporation, is a former New York City schools chancellor.

“Truly awful teachers can effectively commit malpractice (like bad doctors) against thousands of unsuspecting students throughout a 30-year career and still collect the same pay, benefits, and pensions as their most effective peers.” *Source – The Single Most Important Factor in Improving Education: Great Teachers by Joel Klein

Here’s what Klein says has contributed to this caustic environment:

  • Seniority too often rules the roost and preference is given to those who’ve stuck around.
  • Unwanted teachers aren’t fired, their spots are eliminated but they can claim a new spot at another school with a vacancy (made easier the more seniority they have).
  • Lengthy rules and restrictions on the arbitration and axing of teachers, even those who are under disciplinary action.
  • Forcing teachers to lead classes in subjects they’re not qualified, or informed enough, to teach.
  • An unsupportive system that doesn’t provide adequate education, training, and mentoring for teachers who are truly gifted or who simply want to provide their charges the best education possible.

“If we are serious about improving the quality of the people who go into teaching, we need to begin by asking more of the education schools that train our teachers. Far too many of these schools function as indiscriminate revenue sources for universities and colleges, accepting under-qualified students and their tuition dollars for programs that are academically weak. To solve this problem, states could institute rigorous exams—similar to the bar exams for lawyers or licensing tests for doctors—that graduates would have to pass in order to be cleared for the classroom, an idea that Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president, has also championed.” – *Source – The Single Most Important Factor in Improving Education: Great Teachers by Joel Klein

The thing about Klein’s arguments is that they can be extrapolated to fit a litany of other industries, and the simple fact remains – it’s really, really, really expensive to fire an employee and have to hire a new one. This is, arguably, a bigger problem in public sector or unionized workforces like police departments, local, county and federal government, and manufacturers. But the private sector isn’t exempt.

The Center for American Progress reports that replacing an employee can cost between 16 – 20% of the employee’s salary. That’s a lot of dough to eat and is, understandably, why some employers simply don’t pull the plug on bad employees.

What’s the takeaway here? That, despite the costs associated with firing ineffective employees, it’s necessary for your company’s overall health and success. Here’s more reasons:

  • Bad employees will drag good employees down with them. It’s like playing a tennis match. If you play someone with a lower ranking, you will often play down to their level. It’s weird, but it happens. Often.
  • Not all turnover is created equal. Involuntary turnover (the kind you, as the boss, manifest by attracting the keeping the workforce YOU want) is different than voluntary turnover. You don’t want to suffer voluntary turnover.
  • They’re simply not productive anymore.

This last point is useful in tracing the effects of keeping poor teachers on board. These educators are responsible for teaching and inspiring millions of our youngsters. If our children aren’t exposed to the benefits of learning at a young age, and don’t have the opportunity to see and engage with quality teachers, then two things could happen:

  • They may not become the innovators, leaders, and smart, hard-working employees we need to keep our country thriving
  • Children won’t want to become teachers. It’s not a career they’ll see as important and aspire to be.

What do you think of Klein’s assessment? Do you see a connection between his theory and how we treat employees in general? Should employers be braver about firing bad employees? Tell us below!

Share This