Now that we have a better understanding of tenure in public schools, several questions remain: Does teacher tenure really contribute to problems in our schools?
Are there really legions of tenured teachers ruining our schools, working against our students’ success, and spoiling their chances for a rewarding future?
It is hard to believe that there are teachers out there who could actually just “go bad,” whose performance at one time was repeatedly assessed as perfectly acceptable and valued, but has suddenly been deemed unsatisfactory. It seems more likely that there may be a few long-term, poor-performing or marginally successful teachers who have been overlooked by their bosses. Perhaps when they were new to teaching, they were not accurately evaluated. Perhaps they were permitted to stay on as teachers, and thereby achieve tenure after 2-3 years (at the end of probationary status), and have been passed along from year to year by building administrators too busy, too jaded, or too unmotivated to recognize or follow up on ineffective teaching. If any of these teachers’ performance is finally recognized as less than satisfactory, it may come as quite a shock. And, here’s an interesting question: Shouldn’t a building administrator be held accountable for an oversight of this magnitude and importance?
Additionally, the most recent iteration of teacher evaluation in Delaware is founded on the premise that teacher effectiveness can be improved—that the performance of marginal teachers can be rehabilitated. Long-term improvement, not quick and efficient dismissal, is the name of the game. [Not all building administrators understand this, or feel compelled to help a struggling teacher improve, or are motivated to take the time to develop the kind of educational leadership that could produce powerful, positive changes for many teachers.]
Employee evaluation is an administrative responsibility. Members of my union would not choose to stand in the way of a fair evaluation process that clearly demonstrated a teacher’s genuine incompetence or ineffectiveness. No teacher wants to work with or follow up after a truly ineffective colleague who cannot or will not change. However, if the evaluation documentation is not thorough or accurate, or if the state mandated evaluation process was not reasonably followed, union leaders have been forced to demand that the problem be remedied. The dismissal process may have to be delayed in order that principals correct inaccuracies, provide additional documentation, or follow the Delaware Performance Assessment System (DPAS II) process “to the letter,” as it was intended.
Or, could it be possible that with proper guidance and modeling a struggling teacher’s effectiveness can be improved?