Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Teacher tenure: Has it outlived its usefulness? No

And here's Keshishian's response, which actually seems quite reasonable – to those who don't know how the system REALLY works:

So what is tenure, if not a job for life? Simply put, it is a fair dismissal process that requires a district to demonstrate that a teacher is not fit to do the job. New Jersey law says that a tenured teacher can be dismissed for "inefficiency, incapacity, conduct unbecoming, or other just cause." It is the district's responsibility to demonstrate that a teacher falls into one of those categories if it wishes to remove a tenured teacher.

Critics of tenure point out that tenure dismissals are rare, but neglect to mention that a formal tenure challenge is only one way to dismiss a teacher, and is usually used as a last resort.

Before any teacher earns tenure, he or she must successfully complete three full years of employment — with at least four evaluations in each of those years — and begin a fourth year. At any time during that three-year probationary period, a district can remove a teacher without even giving a reason. Three years and 12 evaluations should give a district ample time and information to determine if a teacher has the right stuff to succeed in the profession.

Teaching is a difficult job that isn't for everyone, and not everyone makes it through the probationary period.

Those who earn tenure have demonstrated their talent and ability for three successive years. When a district brings a teacher back for a fourth year, that district is saying, in essence, "We've seen your work and we want you to make a career here with us." In nearly every case, that is a good partnership that benefits the district, the teacher and, especially, the students.


Teacher tenure: Has it outlived its usefulness? No

It's needed as much today as it was 101 years ago


Any discussion of teacher tenure in New Jersey needs to begin with a definition of what it isn't: Tenure is not a job for life.

That will come as a surprise to many. Tenure detractors have spent a great deal of effort painting it as a system designed to protect bad teachers and make it impossible for administrators to do their jobs. That caricature, however, is simply untrue. Tenure is nothing more than a guarantee of due process to ensure a teacher is not dismissed for personal or political reasons. It is designed to protect teachers from the whims of administrators and to protect the public from politicians who might not be able to resist the temptation to turn 120,000 teaching jobs into a massive new patronage system — hardly what New Jersey needs.

Those are exactly the reasons New Jersey passed the nation's first tenure law in 1909. Legislators then understood that the teaching profession was too important to be left unprotected. By giving teachers the freedom to do their work without fear of political interference, they helped create a profession where talented people were willing to commit their lives to the cause of education.

And it worked. By any measure, New Jersey has built one of the finest public education systems in the nation. Our students outshine their peers across the country in every subject. That success is attributable in large measure to the quality of their teachers.

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