There is a lot of talk today about the importance of education. We are constantly trying to find ways to decrease student-to-teacher ratios, find better testing methods, and search out new types of schools and systems of education. Despite all these efforts, there is one area in which school systems are generally hesitant to do their duty: Firing ineffective teachers.

In theory, it’s simple. If a teacher isn’t adequately teaching students, then he or she should no longer have a job. In practice, poorly-performing teachers often get to stay on. But Washington, D.C., in a move that is getting national attention, has decided to do something about it.

Michelle Rhee, chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, fired 241 teachers Friday. That’s 5 percent of all D.C. teachers. Most of the teachers fired had received the lowest rating possible from a new evaluation system. But wait, there’s more. Others in the school system — who are also performing poorly, though perhaps not as abysmally as the already-fired crew — have been told that if they don’t shape up in a year, they’ll be out too.

This isn’t the first time Rhee has fired teachers for poor performance. She did so in the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years as well. However, the number of teachers let go back then, 79 and 96 respectively, is small-time compared to the slaughter witnessed Friday.

To read more about the firings, check out this article in the New York Times.

Rhee’s move is dramatic, but is it right?

According to an opinion piece in the Washington Examiner, Rhee’s stint as chancellor appears to be an effective one. When she started her job in 2007, the D.C. schools were terrible. Since then, the schools have been improving, though the opinion piece does note that when measuring the schools’ progress, Rhee “has used highly publicized — and sometimes highly spun — test scores.”

Perhaps she knows what she’s doing. The Washington Post certainly thinks she deserves strong backing.

“A lot of lip service is given to not tolerating bad teachers. Educators, politicians, and even union leaders say that there is no place in the classroom for a teacher who can’t produce results. But actually doing something about the situation is an entirely different matter. That’s why D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee should be supported for taking the difficult but necessary steps to rid the system of ineffective teachers,” states a July 25 Washington Post editorial.

The importance of Rhee’s move isn’t applicable only to Washington, D.C. If her decision survives and the D.C. schools improve further, then you shouldn’t be surprised to see other school systems follow suit.  In fact, Rhee was not the first to consider drastic measures. According to this AolNews article, in February, a Rhode Island school district got rid of all teachers at one high school because of their poor performances. The article also states that Houston, Texas will start evaluating its teachers via test scores next year. And these may not remain isolated incidents. The article says that Obama’s education policy promotes tough teacher evaluations. If the president is behind this kind of thing, then expect to see it become more widespread.