Pro & Con Quotes: Should Teachers Get Tenure?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Aaron Churchill, MA, Ohio Research Director for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, in a May 30, 2018 article titled “Analyzing Teacher Tenure Reform in Florida,” available from edexcellence.net, wrote:
“In theory, removing tenure in K–12 education can both positively and negatively affect student achievement. On the one hand, it may increase achievement as teachers are incentivized to focus more intently on student learning, knowing their job is on the line each year. Over the long haul, the overall quality of the educator workforce may improve if incompetent teachers are removed more swiftly and frequently than they are today. On the other hand, school leaders may be prone to poor judgment and erroneously dismiss some effective teachers. Proponents of tenure also suggest that eliminating tenure – a job perk – might dissuade talented individuals from entering the profession, though it may also attract less ambitious people seeking job protections.”May 30, 2018
Adam Ross, JD, General Counsel for the United Federation of Teachers at the time of the quote, quoted in a Jan. 4, 2018 article by Linda Ocasio titled “UFT Argues for Dismissal of Tenure Case,” available from uft.org, said:
“Tenure helps ensure that teachers can do their jobs…
It enables teachers to grade honestly, to speak out for their students’ needs, to teach controversial subjects and to blow the whistle on corruption and poor practices. It allows teachers to teach without fear, particularly necessary in today’s politically charged climate.”Jan. 4, 2018
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, MEd, President of the National Education Association (NEA), in a Feb. 24, 2016 press release for nea.org titled “NEA Seeks Reversal of Deeply-Flawed Vergara Decision,” wrote:
“Due process policies such as tenure are an important job protection that teachers value highly. These policies don’t prevent bad teachers from being fired; they prevent good teachers from being fired for bad reasons. Qualified teachers earn these due process protections after satisfying performance expectations. These protections allow teachers to advocate for their students and to teach controversial and challenging curriculum without fear that they will be punished for doing so by overreaching administrators and others with arbitrary or personal agendas.
Striking down the statutes will not help our most at-risk students. High-poverty districts do not suffer from too few teachers being removed; they suffer from too much teacher turnover. Attracting and retaining effective teachers to these schools must be the highest priority.”Feb. 24, 2016
Jake Miller, MEd, award-winning middle school teacher and columnist, in an article for The Educator’s Room titled “Why I Support Teacher Tenure,” available from theeducatorsroom.com (accessed Dec. 6, 2018), wrote:
“I’m a teacher. I have tenure. This gives me staying power and job security. My job isn’t supposed to be political – it’s supposed to be about teaching student[s]. For that reason, tenure is something I feel that I need in my profession.
Why? As a social studies teacher, I need academic freedom. It’s my job to expose students to a variety of mindsets, viewpoints, and a litany of issues that seem to perturb both the far-left and far-right. I want to open minds, and sometimes I have to fight past closed ones – especially those of parents.”Dec. 6, 2018
Erwin Chemerinsky, JD, Dean of the Berkeley School of Law at the University of California, in an Apr. 21, 2016 article for the ocregister.com titled “Misguided Attack on Tenure Sidetracked,” wrote:
“No one disputes that education is unequal in California and the United States. Poorer children and children of color are disadvantaged in the educational system. But the tenure system for teachers is not responsible for this, nor will altering it improve education for those who most need reform…
Every year, the states with the highest student performance are states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, with robust protection of teachers. One of the key reasons they are successful is that these states do a better job at getting resources to the neediest students and creating a climate where teachers have the support needed to succeed and therefore stay in the profession.
The problem of inner-city schools is not that the dedicated teachers who work in them have too many rights, but that the schools have inadequate resources, the students who go to them are disadvantaged in many ways, and the schools are surrounded by communities that are dangerous, lack essential services and are largely segregated both by race and class. Taking away from teachers the modest job security accorded by tenure will address none of these problems.”Apr. 21, 2016
Denise Specht, MS, President of Education Minnesota and former teacher, in a Jan. 9, 2017 news release for Education Minnesota titled “Education Minnesota Responds to Latest Attempt to Silence Teachers,” wrote:
“Due process protections [teacher tenure] are earned by Minnesota teachers after they have passed a lengthy probationary period and have met certain performance expectations… These laws don’t prevent bad teachers from getting fired, they prevent good teachers from being fired for bad reasons. Tenure laws protect teachers who speak out about the learning conditions in their schools. They are what assure parents they are getting the real story at conferences, or PTA meetings, or when they read an interview with a teacher in the newspaper. These laws are the teachers’ First Amendment.”Jan. 9, 2017
Pedro A. Noguera, PhD, Professor of Education in the Steinhardt Development at New York University, wrote the following in his June 19, 2014 article titled “In Defense of Teacher Tenure,” published in the Wall Street Journal:
“Tenure should never prevent a school district from getting rid of bad teachers. Tenure has never been — nor should it be — a guarantee of a job for life…
Ideally, tenure helps low-income schools to attract — and retain — good teachers… Students in districts with large minority populations are much more likely to be taught by new, inexperienced teachers who have only a bachelor’s degree and are often not certified in the subjects they teach…
Schools in high-poverty communities are also typically underfunded, as revenues from local property taxes tend to be meager. That makes it difficult for low-income schools to find and keep top teachers…
In recent years, tenure has given teachers the job security that allows them to report cheating and call attention to the deplorable conditions in low-income schools…
Blaming teacher tenure for the flaws of L.A.’s troubled school system is like blaming doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals for the deep flaws in the VA system. Ending tenure will only make it harder to fix the flaws in a vital public institution.”June 19, 2014
New York State United Teachers wrote in their Feb. 11, 2011 article “Mythbusters: The Truth About Tenure,” available at www.nysut.org:
“Unions don’t grant tenure – administrators do. Too many school boards and superintendents attack tenure rather than hold their own managers accountable for hiring and supervising teachers and, if necessary, removing those who don’t make the grade. Tenure is granted by the board of education on recommendation of the superintendent –but many schools do a poor job of evaluating and supporting teachers…
Tenure’s not about protecting ‘bad’ teachers; it’s about protecting good teachers. What would happen to teachers without tenure? They could — and would — be fired for virtually any reason.
It’s not hard to imagine teachers being dismissed because they failed the daughter of an influential businessman or because the school board president’s nephew needed a job.
In these fiscally troubled times, what would stop a school board from replacing a veteran teacher at the top of the pay scale with a first-year teacher — simply to save money? Tenure is the first line of defense against attacks on academic freedom. Teachers can engage their students in a free exchange of ideas only if they are protected from arbitrary dismissal for doing so. Tenure prevents school boards from arbitrarily dismissing teachers for holding political, religious or social views with which they disagree.
It protects academic freedom the way the First Amendment protects freedom of the press.”Feb. 11, 2011
The California Federation of Teachers stated in a June 10, 2014 press release titled “Teacher Rights Overturned by Court Decision,” available at cft.org:
“Stripping Teachers of their workplace professional rights will harm, not improve students learning.
Anti-public education ‘reformers’ are forever repeating that rules and regulations make it impossible to fire ‘bad teachers.’ Here are the facts. During the first two years of a teacher’s career, a lengthy probation period, administrators can fire them for any reason, or for no reason at all. After that, the requirements are for the administrator to document the problem necessitating the teacher’s dismissal, and convince two out of three people on a panel of experts to agree. That’s it. A teacher’s simple right to a hearing before dismissal is not unfair to students. To the contrary: students need a stable, experienced teaching workforce, not a revolving door of educators…
The [tenure] laws targeted in this case provide due process when a teacher is accused of misconduct or poor performance, and objectivity in times of layoff. These laws benefit the education system as a whole…
The need for academic freedom, and therefore for ‘tenure,’ was demonstrated repeatedly, for instance, during the McCarthy era. Note also the case of Sal Castro, an historic figure who advocated for ethnically relevant courses for Latino students in Los Angeles in the 1960s. The district dismissed him essentially for being an advocate for students and he was only able to get his job back when the community organized for mass actions and took over the school board to get him reinstated.”June 10, 2014
Diane Ravitch, PhD, Research Professor of Education at New York University, stated in her June 12, 2014 piece titled “Tenure Is a Guarantee of Due Process to Prevent Capricious Firings,” in the New York Times:
“In the early days of the formation of teachers’ unions, [teachers] wanted assurance that they could not be fired for arbitrary and capricious reasons. They wanted to be sure that they could not be fired by a school board that wanted to hire a colleague’s daughter or sister, or fired by a principal who didn’t like their looks or their religion…
Unlike tenure in higher education, public school tenure is not a guarantee of a lifetime job. In elementary and secondary education, tenure is a guarantee that a teacher can be fired only for just cause, with due process…
Tenure protects academic freedom. In the absence of tenure, teachers may be fired for any reason. Teachers may be fired if the principal doesn’t like them or if they are experienced and become too expensive. Teachers may be fired for being outspoken.
There is no evidence that tenure causes low test scores. There is no evidence that children get higher achievement if their teachers have no tenure. The best predictor of low test scores is poverty. Every standardized test — whether the SAT, the ACT, state tests, national tests, or international tests – shows the effects of family income on test scores…
The loss of tenure will make it even more difficult to staff schools in the poorest neighborhoods. Abolishing tenure solves no problems for students and creates massive demoralization among teachers, who understand that their job depends now on compliance to administrators, at whose whim they serve.”June 12, 2014
Heather Wolpert-Gawron, California Regional Teacher of the Year, wrote in the Dec. 21, 2009 article “The Truth About Teacher Tenure” available at www.edutopia.org:
“Without tenure, a 30-year teacher who has proven himself able under six school administrations can be fired under the seventh simply due to a conflict in teaching styles. Without tenure, the most experienced and proven educator — someone who has put in years on a school district pay scale — could be fired simply to cut costs in order to hire a newer, unproven teacher…
Without tenure, a teacher would be less likely to try a new book or lesson that strayed from the district vision even if that vision was flawed, or even if that supplemental material was exactly what that teacher needed to reach the kids in her classroom. Without tenure, we could not use criticism to improve our profession.
Without tenure, our vulnerability might influence our choices, allowing our fear of standardized test scores to drive our curriculum, rather then adding the critical-thinking skills into our lessons that we know our students truly need. Without tenure, a teacher could not fight for a student’s rights, raising his voicing against his own school administration or district.
Tenure is not so much a perk as a shield that permits us to teach through the ebb and flow of trends and fads brought in ofttimes by nomadic administrators. It gives us the ability to have an unthreatened voice to stand up against the grain. It allows us to retain our positions through our pregnancies, illness, and mourning, to stand up against lawyers pitted against us by litigious-eyed parents, or by the occasional student with lying on her tongue.”Dec. 21, 2009
Maurice R. Berube, PhD, Eminent scholar emeritus at Old Dominion University, wrote the following in a Mar. 3, 2011 letter to the editor, available at www.nytimes.com:
“One of the chief reasons for the teachers’ unions in the first place was to protect teachers from outside pressure through tenure. Tenure is not easily given; it is earned.
Moreover, critics of teachers’ unions do not take into account the fact that teaching is labor-intensive and teachers often burn out.
Teachers are not the problem of American education, as some charge; they are the solution.”Mar. 3, 2011
Alan Singer, PhD, Professor of Social Studies at Hofstra University, wrote the following in the Feb. 24, 2010 article “Why Tenure for Teachers Is Important,” available at www.huffingtonpost.com:
“Based on my own experience as a New York City public school teacher, I am a strong advocate of tenure. While it protects the less than satisfactory by requiring that due process be followed before they can be removed, it also protects exceptionally good teachers from being undermined and removed by administrators anxious to cover their own rear ends and blustering politicians…
I organized student clubs that testified at public hearings against budget cuts in education and in favor of condom availability in schools. Club members organized debates on reproductive freedom and informational meetings on the Sandinista in Nicaragua, the meaning of Islam, equal rights for gays, and the importance of the census. Sometimes my actions brought me into conflict with ‘colleagues’ and administrators…
What protected me was better than average scores on standardized tests by my students, the fact that I worked in very difficult schools by choice, the school and departmental administrators who respected what I did, and tenure, which made it virtually impossible to remove a teacher without documented evidence of malfeasance or incompetence.”Feb. 24, 2010
Matt Coleman, retired teacher at Trenton High School, wrote the following in his Apr. 7, 2011 Gainesville Sun opinion article “Why Teachers Need Tenure,” available at gainesville.com:
“A professional services contract or tenure is needed for teachers in the public schools of Florida to prevent despotism, nepotism, and cronyism from denying good teachers the opportunity of making teaching a career. Without it, teaching becomes a job that only rewards teachers who teach the most able students instead of a profession where teachers help all students learn…
The school principal is the gatekeeper for excellence in teaching at their school. When the school principal acts responsibly, poor teachers are weeded out and let go, and good teachers are awarded tenure after three years of teaching. Tenure gives these teachers the sense that their job is secure and that it cannot be terminated by the whim of an administrator, complaining parent or other adult, or a disgruntled student. Tenure encourages teaching careers.
The last thing politicians should want is to turn Florida education into a spoils system where administrative patronage determines who gets hired and fired at the end of each school year. Tenure keeps that from happening to good teachers.”Apr. 7, 2011
Anita Gibson, President of the Alabama Education Association, wrote the following in the May 14, 2011 Montgomery Advertiser guest column “Alabama Voices: No Protection,” available at www.montgomeryadvertiser.com:
“The job protections and due process of tenure were first put into place more than 70 years ago because teachers and school employees were routinely fired for personal and political reasons. The tenure law changed that, basing personnel decisions on educational factors and providing a strong system of review by a neutral third party.
The proposed bills would eliminate these basic principles and remove all checks and balances on school boards and administrators, making them wholly unaccountable for their actions.
Proponents of this radical legislation complain that the current system makes it too difficult to fire bad tenured teachers.
The fact is, bad tenured teachers get fired all the time, as well they should. Teachers are evaluated more than most professions, and the system provides ample opportunity to remove bad teachers.”May 14, 2011
Brian Jones, MEd, Green Party candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York and former New York City public school teacher, wrote the following in his June 12, 2014 article titled “Job Protections Do Not Hurt Students,” published in the New York Times:
“If teacher tenure is an important obstacle to achievement, Mississippi (with no teacher tenure) should have stellar schools and Massachusetts (with teacher tenure) should have failing ones. Instead, it’s the other way around. Correlation is not causation, of course, but across the country the states without tenure are at the bottom of performance rankings. States with the highest-achieving public schools have tenure (and teacher unions).
K-12 teachers with tenure do not have a job for life. What ‘tenure’ means, for them, is due-process procedures for dismissals with cause, instead of capricious or at-will dismissal from their duties. I’ve spoken to countless teachers from Southern states who are afraid to do the things that New York City teachers do all the time – write blogs, write letters to the editor, even show up to a rally – because they could lose their jobs for speaking out. All working people should have such protections.”June 12, 2014
Jesse Rothstein, PhD, MPP, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in a June 12, 2014 op-ed titled “Taking on Teacher Tenure Backfires,” published in the New York Times:
“[E]liminating tenure will do little to address the real barriers to effective teaching in impoverished schools, and may even make them worse…
First, firing bad teachers actually makes it harder to recruit new good ones, since new teachers don’t know which type they will be. That risk must be offset with higher salaries — but that in turn could force increases in class size that themselves harm student achievement.
Second, while it might seem better to wait on granting tenure, early decisions — not in the first year, but soon after — actually improve student achievement. That’s partly because stable faculties are better for students, but also because an attentive district knows a great deal about which teachers are good and bad after just two years, and waiting longer provides little additional information.
Finally, the freedom to fire experienced teachers is valuable only when dismissal rates are very high, say, 40 percent or more. And yet such rates come with costs: The risk of firing good teachers is high, and the impact on a school’s culture is detrimental to learning.
In short, while the notion of ‘clearing the stables’ of bad teachers seems attractive, it is almost impossible to get right in practice. No conceivable system can eliminate all ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers, and efforts aimed at doing so can do more harm than good.”June 12, 2014
Catherine Rampell, Opinion Columnist at the Washington Post, wrote in a June 12, 2014 article titled “Eliminating Teacher Tenure Won’t Improve Education,” published in the Washington Post:
“Making it easier to fire bad teachers isn’t going to magically cause the educational achievement gap to disappear. You need to be able to attract and retain more good teachers, too…
Improving the quality of teachers who work with poor kids seems more about insufficient inflow of the talented than insufficient outflow of the untalented. One study, based on a policy change in Chicago, found that even when dismissal rules are relaxed, many principals still choose not to fire anyone — including at the worst-performing schools — perhaps at least partly because of the challenge of finding decent replacements…
Weakening job security in the absence of other reforms may even discourage good people from entering or sticking with the profession.
That’s because job security is one of the key forms of compensation that we still offer to educators as their salaries have gotten less competitive over time….
Reducing job security may sound like a cheap way to improve teacher quality. But without some of the costlier changes necessary to make the most difficult teaching jobs more appealing to the most desirable workers, it seems unlikely to be the silver bullet school reformers are hoping for.”June 12, 2014
Peter Greene, English Teacher at Franklin High School (Sandy Creek, PA), wrote the following in his Aug. 5, 2014 piece titled “Without Tenure…”, published on his blog Curmudgucation:
“The lack of tenure, of due process, of any requirement that a school district only fire teachers for some actual legitimate reason — it interferes with teachers’ ability to do the job they were hired to do. It forces teachers to work under a chilling cloud where their best professional judgment, their desire to advocate for and help students, their ability to speak out and stand up are all smothered by people with the power to say, ‘Do as I tell you, or else.’
Civilians need to understand — the biggest problem with the destruction of tenure is not that a handful of teachers will lose their jobs, but that entire buildings full of teachers will lose the freedom to do their jobs well…
Teachers, who answer to a hundred different bosses, need their own special set of protections. Not to help them keep the job, but to help them do it. The public needs the assurance that teachers will not be protected from the consequences of incompetence (and administrators really need to step up — behind every teacher who shouldn’t have a job are administrators who aren’t doing theirs). But the public also needs the assurance that some administrator or school board member or powerful citizen will not interfere with the work the public hired the teacher to do. Tenure is that assurance. Without tenure, every teacher is the pawn and puppet of whoever happens to be the most powerful person in the building today.”Aug. 5, 2014
The Louisiana Federation of Teachers wrote the following in its Mar. 5, 2009 position paper “Teacher Tenure Is Under Attack in Louisiana,” available at la.aft.org:
“Teacher tenure exists for two essential reasons: to protect educators from political or personal retribution and to guarantee their academic freedom to teach according to the best practices in their fields of expertise. Tenure does not guarantee lifetime employment. It does not protect the unqualified or incompetent individual. The most important function of tenure is to provide a due process when questions arise about a teacher’s qualifications, ability or suitability to teach…
Evidence of effectiveness, demonstrated over a period of three years, lies at the heart of the tenure process. That process is sound, but it is only as good as the people charged with the responsibility of carrying it out. During the three year probationary period, administrators have ample opportunity to closely monitor and evaluate a teacher’s performance. Diligence is required on the part of principals and supervisors…
Teacher tenure is a vital protection, and a key professional right. The Louisiana Federation of Teachers will vigorously fight any efforts to water down the state’s tenure law. We will wage this battle in the context of our call for a bolder, broader approach to public education.”Mar. 5, 2009
Chris Talgo, MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching), Editorial Assistant at the Heartland Institute and former teacher, in an Oct. 28 2018 article titled “Counterpoint: Teacher Tenure Does More Harm Than Good,” available from insidesources.com, wrote:
“In 2018, tenure is no longer necessary. Over the past century, tenure has transformed into an obsolete, protectionist racket that does more harm than good.
First and foremost, teacher tenure creates complacency because it guarantees job safety. Unlike almost every other profession, teachers are commonly awarded tenure very early in their careers, which virtually removes accountability and the incentive for excellent job performance. As a result, public schools are inundated with ineffective tenured teachers who put in minimal effort and fail to adequately educate students…
As if incompetent teachers in far too many classrooms don’t pose enough of a threat to quality education, the time it takes to actually dismiss an inept teacher is appalling. Furthermore, the sheer cost of the process is a severe and totally unnecessary strain on state and local education budgets…
Additionally, tenure places seniority in front of all other factors (including performance) when staffing reductions must be made. This antiquated policy of ‘last-hired, first-fired’ indiscriminately protects veteran teachers and punishes young teachers. Even worse, this backward procedure cripples cutting-edge teaching methods and innovations – which are far more likely to be introduced and honed by young teachers…
Tenure is an archaic and sclerotic system that blunts education innovation, teacher accountability and student learning.”Oct. 28, 2018
Partnership for Educational Justice, in the New York Lawsuit section of its website under the title “Meet the Parent Plaintiffs of Wright v. New York” (accessed June 5, 2017), wrote:
“Unfortunately, a tangle of antiquated laws in New York grant teachers what amounts to lifetime job protection, meaning they are entitled to continue teaching even if they perform poorly year after year…
After only a few years in the classroom, almost all teachers earn ‘tenure.’ With tenure, teachers gain extensive job protections…
All told, it can take up to 18 months and cost taxpayers $250,000 to replace a single poorly-performing teacher…
Teachers who failed to receive a satisfactory rating, missed entire weeks of work, or even physically abused students can remain in the classroom over the objections of their schools…
To make matters worse, New York’s antiquated laws make it illegal for schools to keep their best teachers when layoffs become necessary.”June 5, 2017
George F. Will, PhD, columnist for the Washington Post and National Review, in a July 13, 2016 for the Washington Post titled “The Injustice of California’s Teacher Tenure,” wrote:
“Every year, measurable injuries are inflicted on tens of thousands of already at-risk children by this state’s teacher tenure system…
When incompetent or negligent teachers gain tenure, dismissal procedures are so complex and costly that the process can take up to 10 years and cost up to $450,000…
Another facet of the tenure system – the teachers last hired are the first fired when layoffs are required – reinforces the powerful tendency for incompetent teachers, who must teach somewhere, to accumulate in schools with the most teacher vacancies. These are disproportionately schools attended by low-income minority children…
This is why there is more variation in student achievement within than between schools. This variation is especially dramatic among students from educationally disadvantaged families. A single grossly ineffective teacher can deprive students of a full year of learning, with consequences that include lower graduation and college attendance rates, and lifetime earnings more than $250,000 lower than for pupils without a single incompetent teacher…
Even if the tenure laws were neither written with a discriminatory motive nor administered with a discriminatory intent, the system is now known to produce – not invariably but with a high probability – predictable patterns of disparities.”July 13, 2016
Thomas J. Kane, PhD, Walter H. Gale Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in a June 3, 2016 report for the Brookings Institution titled “In Vergara, Low-Income Students Pay… One Way or Another,” wrote:
“[T]enure laws and the teacher labor market constrain districts’ choices… When state law essentially guarantees public employment for ineffective teachers in California, low-income families pay one way or another – either in the form of salary incentives to retain and redistribute effective teachers, reductions in other services required to pay for those salary incentives, or because such policies usually fail to completely offset the burden, in terms of the lowered achievement of their children…
At a minimum, California courts should stop adding to the burden on low-income children and strike down the laws guaranteeing early tenure and seniority-based layoffs.”June 3, 2016
In Vergara v. California (tentatively decided June 10, 2014), the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, in a decision written by Judge Rolf M. Treu, held that:
“Both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily, and for no legally cognizable reason (let alone a compelling one), disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute [tenure]…
These statutes leave school districts with no choice but to employ a number of grossly ineffective tenured teachers who harm their students year after year, contributing to the provision of widely disparate educational opportunities to similarly situated California students, in violation of the state constitution.
It could take anywhere from two to almost ten years and cost $50,000 to $450,000 or more to bring these cases to conclusion under the dismissal statutes… grossly ineffective teachers are being left in the classroom because school officials do not wish to go through the time and expense to investigate and prosecute these cases.”June 10, 2014
Michelle Rhee, MPP, former Chancellor of Washington, DC public schools, was quoted in a Dec. 19, 2010 interview titled “Michelle Rhee: ‘I Don’t Think There Is A Need for Tenure,'” available at www.nj.com
“[T]he way tenure works for public school teachers today is that once they have it, they have a job for life — regardless of performance. That, I would say, is what is harmful to children…
I don’t think we need to reform tenure. I don’t think there is a need for tenure. Teachers need to understand they are not going to be discriminated against. If they feel they’ve been unfairly terminated, they need to have a process by which they can address that issue. School districts need to ensure firings are not happening in an unfair manner. But all of those things can happen without tenure being in place. Part of the reason we started StudentsFirst is to always look at policies from a kid-centric point of view. If there is any protection in public education, it should be for the children, not for the adults…
The focus has to be on accountability, and it has to be on performance. If, at some point in teachers’ careers, they are not performing in a way that positively impacts student achievement levels, there has to be a way for a school district to remove them.”Dec. 19, 2010
Eric A. Hanushek, PhD, Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, wrote the following in his June 12, 2014 article titled “More Easily Firing Bad Teachers Helps Everyone,” published in Education Next:
“[E]arly, and effectively irreversible, decisions about teacher tenure have real costs for students and ultimately all of society.
Teacher tenure, and the related onerous and costly requirements for dismissing an ineffective teacher, have evolved into a system that almost completely insulates teachers from review, evaluation, or personnel decisions that would threaten their lifetime employment. Research shows that this results in serious harm both to individual students and to society, because a small number of grossly ineffective teachers are retained in our schools.”June 12, 2014
The New Teacher Project wrote in its Dec. 7, 2010 policy brief, “Analysis of Race to the Top Outcomes Applauds Contest Design, Urges Scoring Improvements,” available at www.tntp.org:
“A 7-year-old girl won’t make it to college someday because her teacher has two decades of experience or a master’s degree — she will make it to college if her teacher is effective and engaging and compels her to reach for success. By contrast, a poorly performing teacher can hold back hundreds, maybe thousands, of students over the course of a career. Each day that we ignore this reality is precious time lost for children preparing for the challenges of adulthood.
The glacial process for removing an incompetent teacher — and our discomfort as a society with criticizing anyone who chooses this noble and difficult profession — has left our school districts impotent and, worse, has robbed millions of children of a real future.
There isn’t a business in America that would survive if it couldn’t make personnel decisions based on performance. That is why everything we use in assessing teachers must be linked to their effectiveness in the classroom and focused on increasing student achievement.”Dec. 7, 2010
Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., JD, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Vergara v. California, wrote in his Jan. 28, 2014 article titled “California Kids Go to Court to Demand a Good Education,” published in the Wall Street Journal:
“Because of existing laws, some of the state’s best teachers – including ‘teachers of the year’ – are routinely laid off because they lack seniority. In other cases, teachers convicted of heinous crimes receive generous payoffs to go away because school districts know that there is slim hope of dismissing them. California law makes such firings virtually impossible. The system is so irrational that it compels administrators to bestow ‘permanent employment’ – lifetime tenure – on individuals before they even finish their new-teacher training program or receive teaching credentials.
As a result of this nonsensical regime, certain students get stuck with utterly incompetent or indifferent teachers, resulting in serious harm from which the students may never recover. Such arbitrary, counterproductive rules would never be tolerated in any other business. They should especially not be tolerated where children’s futures are at stake.
There are many problems facing our education system, and there is no silver bullet that can fix them all at once. But there is no better place to begin than by removing senseless laws that devalue effective, inspiring teachers and hurt students.”Jan. 28, 2014
StudentsFirst, an educational advocacy organization founded by Michelle Rhee, wrote the following in its position statement titled “Eliminate Teacher Tenure,” available at studentsfirst.org (accessed Aug. 11, 2014):
“Tenure in K-12 education today means that teachers (and, in many cases, principals) are granted a ‘job for life’ after a relatively short time in the classroom – usually without any serious attempt to evaluate the teacher’s effectiveness. In most states, tenure is essentially automatic after two or three years, barring criminal or extreme misconduct. Once granted, the rules and regulations accompanying tenure or permanent contracts make removing even the most unmotivated and ineffective teachers nearly impossible. These policies do nothing to advance the interests of students, but instead serve only to protect adult jobs.
If tenure merely protected teachers from being fired for arbitrary or capricious reasons, StudentsFirst would support it. Professionals should never be concerned they might lose their jobs because of their age, sex, religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Similarly, we support professionals’ rights to fight back if they are wrongfully terminated. Fortunately, well-established federal and state policies allow teachers to challenge wrongful actions and prevent discriminatory firing in public education. Tenure is simply not needed to protect such rights.
To serve the interest of students, tenure must be eliminated so that teachers feel best protected by the quality of their work and the role they play on the teaching team.”Aug. 11, 2014
RiShawn Biddle, journalist and education policy advisor, wrote in a July 17, 2014 blog post titled “Tenure Only Protects Bad Teachers,” published on Dropout Nation:
“Traditionalists will do anything to defend tenure laws giving teachers near-lifetime employment, even amid evidence that all it does is protect laggard and criminally abusive teachers from being sacked from classrooms…
As a civil servant, [teachers are] already covered under New York State’s civil service law, which provides rather reasonable protections against unfair dismissals by laggard leaders. In fact, if the New York City Parent’s Union’s Vergara suit (along with that being filed by Campbell Brown’s Partnership for Educational Equality) succeed in eviscerating tenure, Big Apple teachers would still be protected from unfair firings. NEA and AFT [union] leaders cannot argue legitimately why teachers should be granted protections that go far beyond those given to police officers and firefighters (who endanger their lives daily and are subjected to far harsher politicking), much less other civil servants and those of us in the private sector.
It is high time that we end tenure and near-lifetime employment for teachers. Our children deserve better than this.”July 17, 2014
Chris Christie, JD, Governor of New Jersey, said in his Jan. 11, 2011 State of the State Address, available at New Jersey Newsroom:
“[G]ive schools more power to remove underperforming teachers. The time for a national conversation on tenure is long past due.
Teaching can no longer be the only profession where you have no rewards for excellence and no consequences for failure to perform. Let New Jersey lead the way again. The time to eliminate teacher tenure is now.”Jan. 11, 2011
Marcellus Antonio McRae, JD, Litigation partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and co-counsel for the plaintiffs in Vergara v. California, wrote in his Sep. 11, 2013 piece titled “Vergara v. California: Marching toward a Dream Still Denied,” in Huffington Post:
“Teachers are a crucial component of the quality of education that students receive. Research shows that teacher quality has a greater impact on student achievement than many other factors such as class size, teacher certification requirements, and per-pupil spending.
Some students… get stuck in classrooms with teachers who, year after year, fail to educate or inspire their students. These persistently low-performing teachers contribute to a devastating and unjustifiable inequality in our public educational system.
In Los Angeles Unified, the country’s second largest school district, African-American and Latino students are two to three times more likely to have a teacher in the bottom quartile of effectiveness than their white and Asian peers. Research has revealed that Los Angeles schools in which ineffective teachers make up over 50 percent of the teaching staff are clustered in certain parts of the city…
But the worst part of these inequalities is that we know exactly which laws are contributing to and exacerbating the problem. Teacher employment protections [tenure] in California so far exceed those in other States that dismissing a persistently ineffective teacher is next to impossible so costly, time-consuming, and unlikely to actually result in dismissal that administrators are prevented from even trying. Worse, when budget shortfalls force districts to implement layoffs, the statutes require districts to lay teachers off in reverse order of seniority, with no regard for skills, leadership or past performance in the classroom.”Sep. 11, 2013
Jeff Susich, parent of an elementary school student, wrote the following in his June 22, 2014 letter to the editor titled “Teacher Who Drove Students Away,” published in the Wall Street Journal:
“In our elementary school district (a very good one), there was a teacher known (by those who had lived here for sufficient years) to be a terrible teacher. When our youngest was put into her class, we personally met with the principal to have our son moved to another class. This was done for us, as it was for any parents who made a similar request. His answer to why she was still teaching amounted to, ‘We know, but we can’t do anything about it.’ So along the way, she taught kids miserably for over 30 years. Her classes consisted of kids with parents who had just moved into this area and did not know better.
The school district would move her around to different grades when the parent outcry from those unfortunate enough not to have had prior knowledge about her became troublesome. This is what tenure looks like for parents.
Think about how much better those hundreds of students might have learned from a more motivated teacher.”June 22, 2014
Michael Bloomberg, MBA, Mayor of New York City at the time of the quote, was quoted in the Sep. 27, 2010 transcript “Remarks of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at NBC News’ ‘Education Nation’ Summit,” available at schools.nyc.gov:
“We’ll do more to support teachers and reward great teaching – and that includes ending tenure as we know it so that tenure is awarded for performance, not taken for granted.
Teachers and principals are professionals. They deserve to be paid like professionals, treated like professionals, and evaluated like professionals. But for too long, the tenure evaluation process for both principals and teachers has been a formality – a rubber stamp. It used to be that 99.1 percent of teachers received tenure. That’s right, 99.1 percent. But last year, we started using data to make tenure decisions, and the tenure number dropped to 89 percent. For the other 11 percent, they were just not ready to receive a lifetime job protection…
It’s time for us to end the ‘last-in, first out’ layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York – and across our wonderful country. With more budget cuts looming, principals across the country will have no choice but to make layoffs based only on seniority – so their newest teachers would be the first ones to go, even if they happen to be the best teachers. That makes no sense. Remember our one and only question: is it good for children?”Sep. 27, 2010
The Idaho State Department of Education wrote the following in the Feb. 1, 2011 article “Tenure,” available at sde.idaho.gov:
“Currently, if a teacher has been teaching for longer than three years, they receive a continuing contract in the State of Idaho – a contract equivalent to tenure. If we truly want to focus on putting students first, we can no longer permit a forever contract in our schools. No credible research shows that tenure helps improve student achievement…
Phasing out tenure is not a new idea or something just happening in Idaho. States across the nation have passed or introduced legislation to eliminate tenure or tie it to a teacher’s performance. These states recognize that tenure may have been a rite of passage in the past, but it now serves as an obstacle to improving schools.”Feb. 1, 2011
Timothy Knowles, PhD, Director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, wrote in his Wall Street Journal June 18, 2010 opinion piece “The Trouble with Teacher Tenure” at www.wsj.com:
“First, teachers have a greater impact on student learning than any other school-based factor. Second, we will not produce excellent schools without eliminating laws and practices that guarantee teachers – regardless of their performance – jobs for life.
Nearly everyone in public education has a story that illustrates the Kafkaesque process of trying to remove a tenured teacher. Mine involves a teacher in Boston who napped each day in the back of the room while students copied from the board. Despite repeated efforts, the district failed to fire him.
The time has come to eliminate tenure. We are facing monumental challenges in our quest to provide all students with an education that will prepare them to compete in a globalized economy. By removing one of the main sources of friction between labor and management, we can focus on the substantive issues: training, evaluating and rewarding teachers to make teaching a true profession.”June 18, 2010
Joel Klein, JD, former New York city chancellor, was quoted in the Mar. 2, 2009 article “Michelle Rhee Threatens End-Run Around Teachers’ Union,” available at Huffington Post:
“Once teachers get tenure – which typically happens at the end of three years – they basically have their jobs for life. Last year, only 10 in 55,000 tenured New York City teachers were fired for poor performance. Protecting grownups rather than making sure students can read and do math is how our country has gotten into the educational mess it’s in today. It’s the reason we have shameful racial achievement gaps separating our white and Asian students from our African-American and Latino students. It’s the reason too many of our kids are dropping out of school. It’s the reason our kids are lagging further and further behind their international peers.”Mar. 2, 2009
The New Jersey School Boards Association wrote in its Sep. 30, 2010 press release “Tenure Reform” available at www.njsba.org:
“School boards operate in a completely different environment today than they did when tenure was established in 1909. Over a century of statutes, regulations and court decisions protect employees from arbitrary dismissal and discrimination. More recently, the School Ethics Act and the School District Accountability Act and regulations added to safeguards against patronage hiring and nepotism.
New Jersey’s tenure system has devolved into a lifetime job protection for teachers, regardless of how well they perform in the classroom.
The New Jersey School Boards Association believes that our state’s children deserve a public school system that places educational quality above employee job security. Therefore, reforming the current system of lifetime tenure should be at the heart of educational improvement and reform. NJSBA supports replacement of lifetime tenure for school employees with a system of renewable employment contracts.”Sep. 30, 2010
Rick Scott, JD, Governor of Florida, said the following in his Jan. 11, 2011 speech at the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s South Florida Economic Summit, available at tampabay.com:
“Just like we hold government accountable, we should also hold teachers accountable, and this is one simple way to do that. We also need to eliminate teacher tenure so that we can replace bad teachers. 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. If we do that, and we give parents more options for educating their kids, we’ll be well on our way to fixing Florida’s economy.”Jan. 11, 2011
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