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States Take Up Tenure Reform


Think performance pay is the biggest teacher-policy controversy going on right now? Hold on to your hats, because it looks like the issue of teacher tenure is poised to leap onto the national scene, with at least three states considering changes to their systems for granting tenure, which grants certain "due process" rights to teachers before they can be dismissed.

In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wants to grant teachers tenure after nine years, rather than the current three. (I wonder how many teachers would actually stay around long enough to earn it.) It would also allow tenured teachers to be dismissed for "just cause." Currently, teachers can only be dismissed for "gross immorality" or "inefficiency." (Hat tip to Flypaper for this news.).

In Florida, Republican legislators are preparing to submit legislation to give teachers annual contracts for their first 10 years in the classroom and then contracts of no more than five years after that. Essentially, that plan would make teachers at-will employees for their first 10 years.

And, of course, there's D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee's proposal to push tenure-granting back from two to four years and require current teachers to forgo it for a year in exchange for the opportunity to win bonuses.

Teachers' unions and other supporters of tenure say it's necessary to guard against arbitrary dismissals by principals. We've all heard horror stories about how political school buildings can be, but is there any real data on whether school administrators are typically more vindictive than other employers? And is NCLB changing the game at all? Principals are under enormous pressure to raise standardized test scores and so one would think they would want to keep the most effective teachers and lose the ones who aren't pulling their weight. But is that the case in reality?

This is a very tricky area. So let's hear your thoughts on tenure.


These tenure issues should only worry one group, ineffective teachers. If this were hospitals we were talking about no one would raise a fuss. We forget that teachers are shaping our children's minds and futures. Don't we want the best and the brightest taking on that task?

I guess history isn't one of our strong suits. Must be those ineffective history teachers. Fire them all! (Or in the interest of naivete, maybe only those who actually teach it.)

Tenure isn't only due process, which the crumb-grabbers think should be scrapped because teachers should engage in a race to the bottom, like so many unprotected workers in other fields, while the ownership class walks off with most of the money.

But, more importantly, it was instituted to make sure teachers weren't fired for their political views, which is anathema to a quality education. If there's anyone who doesn't think teachers won't get fired for this reason, or really any reason at the whim of their superiors, they don't really understand human nature. Those who do make and support laws and rules to combat our worst tendencies, for better or worse.

Show me the perfect educational system and I'll show you a fantasy.

I knew a principal who sexually harassed the new young teachers.
Then there was another who liked to play mind games with new teachers. He would lie and tell them that the lesson he had observed was missing an element. Just to rattle them.

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