Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More on the bold, smart things Klein is doing:

They must make the grade: DOE will finally use test scores to grant teacher tenure

Sunday, February 14th 2010, 4:00 AM

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein is about to consider how well probationary teachers have proven themselves in the classroom before granting them the lifetime job protection of tenure.

Sound like common sense? Sure does.

You thought chancellors already checked teacher quality in making tenure decisions? Silly you.

Only in recent years has the school system had the test-score data necessary to gauge whether individual teachers were raising student achievement. One result was that tenure decisions, made when instructors have completed three years on the job, were pretty much rubber-stamped.

In 2009, fully 93% of the teachers up for tenure got it, including many who had been given unsatisfactory performance ratings.

What should be a reward for good work has been little more than an entitlement. And that's just fine with the United Federation of Teachers.

Probationary teachers glide right into permanent jobs - and, not incidentally, into permanent membership in the union. Which is why former President Randi Weingarten, claiming tests are unreliable, snuck into state law a ban on using data in tenure decisions. And why new President Michael Mulgrew is suing Klein.

He doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. The ban applies to teachers hired on or after July 1, 2008, but those up for tenure this year were hired in 2007.

Classroom observation, professional skills, examples of student work and other factors will still count. But comparing two years' worth of math and English test scores at schools with similar student bodies and then ranking teachers by how well students did, as Klein wants, is eminently fair.

And ignoring evidence that a teacher can't teach is just plain wrong. Instructors should be able to demonstrate two years' worth of success before being entrusted with an entire generation.

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