One Hot Mess

Teacher tenure has become such a hot mess issue. As a veteran teacher, this continues to amaze me. Apparently tenure is the new boogy man. Give a teacher tenure, and she’ll take a mile. Tenure–the ruination of a nation. Teacher tenure–bad for babies and world peace.

The process is sometimes called “granting tenure.” That means about the same thing as conferring. It is not a gift–it is not just given–tenure must be earned. At least, that is the concept that was intended. I have already written extensively about tenure. Don’t make me go back there!

However, here is another group’s look at the issue of tenure. This piece was published in the Association of School Boards Journal– a national publication for a national organization. I would think that this group would enjoy some level of respect.

Well, see here. I am not the only person not afraid of this boogy man.

5 Reasons to Quit Whining About Tenure

from the Association of School Boards Journal (ASBJ)

ASBJ’s Top Five Lists for 2009

Listen to the fiercest critics of teacher tenure, and the impression you’ll get is that tenure rules are the single biggest obstacle to improving teacher quality in the classroom.

Hogwash.  No, the ASBJ isn’t in the pocket of the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers. There’s no denying that tenure makes it tough — and, in some states, financially intimidating — to fire a bad teacher.

But teacher tenure is a bit of a red herring. And here’s why:

A few bad teachers aren’t the real problem. A bad teacher absolutely should be removed from the classroom. But the broader, more fundamental issue in American education is the overall quality of instruction available to children. The challenges facing teachers today are significant, and school boards need to address them. So, what’s a higher priority — spending time and money to remove a few tenured teachers, or putting your resources into training that helps hundreds of teachers do a better job in their classrooms?

A problem only exists if you give tenure to bad teachers. Have you ever considered why so many bad teachers have tenure in the first place? The reason is simple: You give it to them. In many instances, principals lack the training to properly evaluate teachers — and rate them as satisfactory on annual evaluations. Then, after a few years, tenure is almost routinely granted. Stop that. Keep track of your new teachers, and if they aren’t cutting it, let them go before they’re awarded tenure rights.

Mentoring and intervention can fix many problems. It’s both fair to the teacher and cheaper and efficient for your school system. Identify your poorest-performing teachers and work with them. Provide them with a mentor. Give them professional development. Offer regular evaluations and coaching. The worst that can happen: The teacher doesn’t improve, you have invaluable documentation for a termination hearing, or maybe the teacher will see the handwriting on the wall — and quit.

Bad teachers don’t like termination hearings any more than you do. It is time consuming — and expensive — to get rid of a tenured teacher. At least, that’s true the first time or two. But when school officials jump through all the legal hoops and prove their case, teachers can be dismissed. And if you show determination, you’ll find some teachers choose to leave rather than risk termination and an ugly mark on their record.

Teacher tenure isn’t going away. No one is suggesting school board members simply accept the status quo. Go right ahead and lobby your state lawmakers. Demand change. Modest improvements in the law are possible. But be realistic. A few years back, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to increase from two to five years the time it takes a new teacher to earn tenure. Seems reasonable, right? Well, you can guess what happened. The teachers union rallied the troops and raised millions of dollars to crush the proposal. 

Editor’s note to Item #5: If your school administrator cannot recognize a lackluster teacher in 2-3 years, then you have a bigger problem than a poor-performing teacher.  Governor Schwarzenegger’s legislation was over the top. How about advocating for an increase from two to three years?  That may have passed muster!

This entry was posted in "Reform Experts", Accountability, Attacks on Unions, Education Professionals, Education Unions, Faculty and Staff, New Teachers, Quality Teachers/Quality Teaching, Teacher Tenure, Teacher Unions. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to One Hot Mess

  1. John Young says:

    Those afraid of tenure are just unwilling to stare down so many of the real problems in education. Scapegoating teachers is easy, that is why ed reformers do it. It is also why their multifaceted, multidemensional stakeholder groups are 10 miles wide and an inch thick.

    If parents, staudents and teachers would take back our schools, everything would be fine. Instead, we let our leaders take the fake high ground which is saying that poverty is no excuse and teachers are the only difference makers. Once that is the baseline, they then justify all of their pernicious strategies: consultants, unproven interventions and of late, scurrilous campaigns against the locally elected officials placed in the posiotin to hold schools accounatble.

    I have learned the hard way, those at the top, in DE and the nation, truly want change for the sake of aasuaging their own sense of “moving forward”: screw the teachers, screw the adminstrators, screw the parents, and now it seems, screw the boards….what’s next? Screw the kids?

    Stay tuned…..

  2. Gilda says:

    Tenure is not the problem. As has been pointed out, watch the “new kids” carefully and counsel them out of the profession before they are granted tenure. Just do it for heaven’s saake! Surely a principal has eyes wide open enough to know if Ms./Mr. Smith is making it in the classroom. Teacher mentoring programs (often suggested and supported by unions), and real-time evaluation are critical. Admins, please don’t waste your time–or the veteran teachers’ time –by doing scheduled evals which soak up time and energy-drop in often enough to see what they’re doing and if anyone is NOT making it, get in there and do your job! For heaven’s sake, it is NOT rocket science–just damn well play by the rules you agreed to. Duh……

  3. Pingback: Teacher Tenure, other Debates, and Travelling Reforms | Just questions!

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