Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Teacher tenure: Has it outlived its usefulness? Yes

An interesting debate over teacher tenure between Derrell Bradford of NJ's E3 and Barbara Keshishian, the head of NJEA.  Here's Bradford:

Enshrined into state law — superseding even the power of reform-minded local school boards to change — tenure is awarded to public school teachers, all of them, regardless of ability, after they have taught in New Jersey classrooms for three years and one day. The New Jersey Education Association asserts that tenure ensures a right to due process, and is a necessary protection, which seems laudable. However, like many contract provisions of its kind, it has grown to become a problem of its own.

Tenure has evolved into a job for life. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's largest teacher unions, dispute this. But as a 2004 study by education scholar Frederick Hess showed, even teachers themselves recognize how hard it is to purge ineffective tenured teachers, with 36 percent reporting that "between tenure and the documentation requirements, it's too hard for administrators to remove any but the very worst teachers." Just 14 percent of teachers in the same survey reported that inability to remove bad teachers is not a problem.

This says nothing of the prohibitive cost of removing a tenured teacher, or the time and effort involved. Dismissing a tenured teacher can take as many as three years and cost well over $100,000 in legal fees. Given the exorbitant cost and the effort involved, most principals simply work to move poor-performing tenured teachers from their schools to others — an annual dance of the lemons as it is called in education reform circles. For this dance contest, however, clearly our kids are the losers.

So how can we support due process for teachers while allowing the managers of our schools — the principals — to make teacher effectiveness and student performance the prime factors by which the teaching force is judged? It's simple: We make tenure harder to get and easier to revoke.


Teacher tenure: Has it outlived its usefulness? Yes

Make it harder to get, easier to revoke

By DERRELL BRADFORD • May 30, 2010

There are a few third rails in education reform. School choice and merit pay are among them. And just as discussion about them has increased in both frequency and seriousness recently, so has the focus on what is arguably the holy grail of teacher collective bargaining: tenure.

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