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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Defining A Marginal Teacher

Who and what is a marginal teacher? I've been thinking about this topic quite a bit lately for two reasons. One, I'm sitting on Jessica Howland's dissertation committee at Rutgers University. Jessica has designed a study to examine the decision making process of principals who recommend marginal teachers for tenure. I am fortunate to be on her committee and look forward to reading about the findings from this important study. Two, here in NJ all school districts are required to rethink and revise their certified staff evaluation processes no later than September 2013. We've begun this process in the district in which I work. I think this change will improve the professional growth of all educators in our district. Together, though, these two reasons have me thinking more about who marginal teachers actually are and what they do.

What is the definition of a marginal teacher? In my mind, teachers can be deemed "marginal" for a variety of reasons. Questionable classroom management, content knowledge, instructional approach, willingness to learn, or fit within the organization might put a teacher into the marginal category. I think this just scratches the surface, because recommending marginal teachers for tenure is probably a result of several other factors. The decision making process likely differs between elementary and secondary principals, as well as for principals who are hiring teachers in content areas that are in relatively limited supply (i.e. physics/chemistry). This is an important area, especially here in NJ because our NCLB waiver is tied to changes to certified staff evaluation processes.

Please share your thoughts on marginal teachers and answer the following questions:
What is your definition of a marginal teacher?
Is there a marginal teacher who you would consider recommending for tenure?

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