I am of a mind that the good teachers have been driven into hiding by the reformers, the bureaucrats and the unions. First the data. Half- yes half- of all teachers in an urban setting depart within three years. Why is that? This is what I think.
First of all the teachers are not properly prepared for teaching in an urban environment. The pressure is on them not to suspend students. That is fine. But teaching should not be a combat zone and if nothing else teachers need, at bare minimum, feel physically safe. Because there are always openings in urban schools, the HR departments are hiring people who are "alternatively prepared" (read that as quick and dirty). These people come in with the best of intentions wanting to help kids. BUT they have not a clue about the situations into which they are walking. Nor do they have the skills to manage the behaviors of kids who either have not learned school behaviors or for whom school does not hold the same middle class values as the teacher. Make no mistake, these kids can be taught, but the teachers need the skill to do it.
Secondly, we need to leave the good teachers alone and let them teach. Let them teach students and let them teach new teachers how to do the job. Let's stop pestering them with all this testing and telling them that we are measuring what kind of job they are doing by test scores. Doing this takes all the responsibility off the student for learning.
Thirdly, we need to ask for references for new hires and listen to the reference. There are very few people who do not know 3-4 people who think they are great and can give a good reference. That reality makes bad references all the more potent. Recently a school system hired two teachers who had received bad references from at least two people. Why were these people hired? From what I was told, the HR department had slots to fill and these people had the credentials for the jobs. All credentialed people are not qualified to teach. Surely HR people should know that. And if they don't they need to move on to other jobs.
Finally, every one in a school knows who the weak teachers are. And I do mean everyone, including the custodian and the students. We need to have the courage to get rid of these people who are not doing their jobs. But then there are the unions whose primary purpose seems to be to get more money, more benefits and to hell with the students because the union will protect the job of every member regardless of that member's skill.
So where are the great teachers? If they cannot be found in law offices, sales or other non lethal professions where they have been driven by forces mentioned above, they are hiding out in your neighborhood classroom hoping they will not be noticed so they can do what they really love to do. If you know one of these teachers, protect them but don't blow their cover. Our students need them.