I read an interesting article in the New York Times yesterday about several governors trying to come up with plans to end teacher tenure. Or maybe not end it, but reform it.
As someone who is studying to be a teacher I find this an interesting subject, but I am not really sure where I stand on the issue of teacher tenure. On the one hand it does help protect some of the most important professionals who do their jobs for little pay and little respect, but on the other hand it protects those who have been there the longest not those who have done their jobs the best.
That is my ultimate problem with tenure — it protects the wrong teachers. Just because someone has been teaching for 10 or 15 years does not mean they are a good teacher, it may even mean they are bad teachers who are not up-to-date with the latest in educational practices and methodologies. But new teachers, who may not have the in-class experience, but certainly have the newest training and the enthusiastic attitude are punished simply because they are new.
The article quotes Florida’s new Republican governor, Rick Scott, who told the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce last month: “Good teachers know they don’t need tenure. There is no reason to have it except to protect those that don’t perform as they should.” I agree with that statement, the system of tenure seems to protect teachers who do not perform well, because what school district would get rid of teachers who perform well over those who do not? In any other professional field if someone does not keep up with the latest theories and perform their job well they suffer the consequences. Now, I’m all for giving teachers more benefits, more incentives, more credit for the hard work that they do, but tenuring teachers just because they managed to survive for several years seems, to me, the wrong approach.
On the other hand, the article quotes, “Why aren’t governors standing up and saying, ‘In our state, we’ll devise a system where nobody will ever get into a classroom who isn’t competent’?” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “Instead they are saying, ‘Let’s make it easy to fire teachers.’ That’s the wrong goal.” Yes, that is the wrong goal, but there is a logical fallacy in that statement. That is the wrong goal, but that is not the goal that those who want to get rid of teacher tenure are aiming for. No one wants to make it easier to fire teachers just because, they want to make it easier to get rid of teachers who do not continue to do well. Yes, we want to ‘devise a system where nobody will get into a classroom who isn’t competent’ but once someone, who is qualified, gets into the classroom, their job is not over. They must keep working to improve themselves as educators, and those who will not should not be allowed to keep teaching, over those who will.
But I must cede a point to those in favor of teacher tenure, as Ada Beth Cutler, dean of the education college at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said, “One of the fears I hear from teachers is that in these tough budget times, what’s going to stop someone from firing someone at the top of the pay scale?” That is a valid concern, and just about the only one I can find in favor of tenure. There needs to be some sort of protection in place for those who are good teachers, who consistently do well in the classroom to keep their jobs. But most companies have some policies in place that protect workers from being fired arbitrarily, surely some of these could be applied to our public schools. There should be a review, an investigation, a detailed case made for every teacher that is fired, clearly explaining the reasons — and budget cuts cannot be one of those reasons.
If there must be a teacher tenure, why can we not use the same procedure used by many Universities and academic organization to ascertain which papers and articles get published: peer review. If teachers are peer reviewed and granted tenure based on a peer review, that comes up for review periodically, then they can enjoy protection from an administration that may be seeking to trim the budget, but we are not needlessly paying people who are no longer doing well at their jobs.
That is my thought on the matter. I don’t see a very big need for teacher tenure if the same protections that keep any other worker in any other field from being randomly fired were applied to education and if we rate our teachers partly on a peer review process that allows colleagues to evaluate their performance.
- G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure (nytimes.com)
- Labor Expert Says Teacher Seniority, Tenure System Should Stay (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Teacher Tenure: Two Options To Reform The System (huffingtonpost.com)