Last updated on: 9/23/2014 | Author:

Diane Ravitch, PhD Biography

Research Professor of Education at New York University
Pro to the question "Should Teachers Get Tenure?"

“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.”

“Tenure Is a Guarantee of Due Process to Prevent Capricious Firings,”, June 12, 2014

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Research Professor of Education, New York University, 1995-present
  • Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Recipient, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, June 2011
  • Named National Education Association’s “Friend of Education,” 2010
  • Member, Koret Task Force, Hoover Institution at Stanford University, 1999-2009
  • Board Member, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1996-2009
  • Recipient, John Dewey Award, United Federation of Teachers of New York City, 2005
  • Brown Chair in Education Studies, Brookings Institution, 1995-2005
  • Member, National Assessment Governing Board, 1997-2004
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow, American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 2002
  • Assistant US Secretary of Education, Counselor to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, 1991-1993
  • Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1985
  • Visiting Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, 1984-1985
  • Former Adjunct Professor of History and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • PhD, History, Columbia University, 1975
  • BA, Wellesley College, 1960
  • Born on July 1, 1938
  • Native of Houston, TX and graduate of Houston public schools
  • Has lectured in Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, the former Soviet Union, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, and throughout the United States.
  • Blogger with 8.3 million pageviews per year,
  • Has edited over twelve books
  • Honorary Doctorates: Williams College, Reed College, Amherst College, The State University of New York, Ramapo College, St. Joseph’s College of New York, Siena College, Middlebury College Language Schools, Union College
  • Recipient, Kenneth J. Bialkin/Citigroup Public Service Award, 2006
  • Recipient, Gaudium Award of the Breukelein Institute, 2005
  • Recipient, Uncommon Book Award, Hoover Institution at Stanford University, 2005
  • Recipient,Horace Kidger Award of the New England History Teachers Association, 1998
  • Recipient, Leadership Award, Klingenstein Institute at Teachers College, 1994
  • Invited Lecturer, Library of Congress, 1993
  • Honoree, Literary Lion, New York Public Library, 1992
  • Recipient, Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award, 1989
  • Twitter handle: @DianeRavitch
Quoted in:
Pro & Con Quotes: Should Teachers Get Tenure?