Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No (Tenured) Teacher Left Behind

This WSJ editorial today nails the problem – and how some needed changes are happening in a few places:

School reformers generally agree that the most important education resource is the teacher. But one of the biggest obstacles to putting a good instructor in every classroom is a tenure system that forces principals to hire and retain teachers based on seniority instead of performance.

…This means that large numbers of ineffective teachers wind up with ironclad job protection. When low-performing teachers can't be fired, it's the students who suffer.

…Nevertheless, teachers unions do everything in their power to preserve this tenure status quo. In 2005, when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger backed a proposal to extend the probationary period for new teachers to five years, the California Teachers Association spent more than $50 million to defeat it. In New York, a union-supported law that bans the use of student data in making tenure decisions helped disqualify the state for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top grants.

Even when bad schools close, which happens all too rarely, teachers from those schools take jobs at replacement schools or are sent to work at other schools in the system. And union contracts typically allow those with seniority to bump younger colleagues from other schools, even if the younger teachers are getting better classroom results.

…The good news is that school reformers are making progress in some areas. Charlotte, North Carolina, allows teachers to be fired for poor performance. Chicago limits the amount of time a teacher without a job can continue receiving pay and benefits. Starting next year, teachers in Houston can lose their jobs if students fall short on standardized tests. Florida and Louisiana have moved to strike last-in, first-out provisions from collective-bargaining agreements.

The Obama Administration has made teacher accountability a major theme of its education agenda. Let's hope its Race to the Top selections reward school districts that are actively working to reform the teacher corps and change a tenure system that puts job protection ahead of learning.


No (Tenured) Teacher Left Behind

The consequences of putting job protection ahead of learning.

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