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letters | two Boston schools face staff exodus

Clean sweep of staff will raise stress, not test scores

I am disappointed that some schools might again be replacing many of their teachers (“Staff exodus from two schools likely,” Metro, Jan. 26). This is a recipe for increasing stress rather than quality of education.

In both Japan and America, the author and consultant W. Edwards Deming helped many businesses greatly improve their quality.

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Deming argued that managers, not employees, are the source of most quality problems. So, how would bulk teacher layoffs improve schools?

Feedback is essential for improvement. Deming told firms to drive out fear among employees, and thereby encourage open communication. But how can teachers be anything but fearful if they can lose their jobs every several years?

Reducing variation is another key to improving quality. Dever Elementary School switched to dual-language instruction five years ago and replaced half its teachers four years ago. That’s a lot of disruption to overcome.

Deming also told leaders to eliminate arbitrary numerical targets, and instead focus on continual improvement. Dever is improving (“Frustrating, in any language,” Metro, Jan. 27). Let’s focus on those efforts, rather than on MCAS targets.

The employee-layoff approach is a classic 1950s business mistake. Let’s not repeat it with education in 2014.

Michael J. Armstrong

Northfield, Vt.

Michael J. Armstrong, an associate professor of business at Brock University, is a visiting research chair at Norwich University.

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