Tenure: 3 Groups Fighting Against Bad Teachers

The war against underperforming teachers is in full swing, with proposed laws created to prevent them from negatively impacting their students. One of the many ways we tend to address this is by targeting teacher tenure. Teacher tenure protects teachers from the many threats to their jobs—but does it also make them complacent and keep them from doing their best? Taking this even further, do the worst teachers benefit from tenure?

Some people believe so, and they’re fighting back by tackling tenure in their proposed laws. Here are three institutions that have taken measures to protect their students by going after teacher tenure.

  1. Teach Great proposed an amendment that would get rid of teacher tenure in Missouri.

In Missouri, instead of tenure, teachers would get renewable three-year contracts. Test scores would also become the chief factor in teacher evaluations.

However, an overwhelming number of teacher groups, statewide education associations and school boards fought against the amendment. Teach Great, the group that drove the proposal, even backed off before the vote admitting that the timing was off. The group hoped this system would reward good teachers.

Andy Hosmer, Springfield Public School Board vice president said, “I’m thrilled the voters saw through this blatant attempt to influence education across Missouri. This was a situation where no one thought this was a good idea.”

Had the proposal passed, tenure would no longer have existed. Students would have taken more tests and bargaining over teacher evaluations would have been prohibited. Teachers’ salaries would be based on the performance of their students with over 50 percent of teacher evaluations based on standardized testing.

Teachers felt that the proposal would have forced them to “teach to the test.” The testing also would have cost Missouri millions of dollars.

Luckily for teachers, the statewide efforts to spread the word about the negative consequences of the proposal proved to be triumphant.

  1. Students Matter sued to change the status quo of teaching in California.

Nine public school students in the state brought on this case and challenged a set of laws – one of which gives teachers in California tenure as soon as 18 months into their careers. Another requires layoffs on a last in, first out basis without taking into consideration the quality of the teacher.

Judge Rolf M. Treu ruled in favor of the group, Students Matter, and against teachers unions in a decision that may turn over how the state’s teachers are both hired and fired in California.

Students Matter believes the laws allow ineffective teachers to stay on board and that low-income, minority students suffer as a result when less-desired educators make their way into their classrooms. Judge Treu agreed and found that five California statutes violate the constitutional protection children have in the state to equal education opportunity.

Economist Raj Chetty calculated that the one year of exposure to the worst performing teachers actually might cost a classroom of children $1.4 million in lifetime earnings. These findings were from a study that looked at data on 2.5 million students’ grades three through eight between 1989 and 2009 and compared their test scores in English and math to tax records as adults.

Chetty went on to say that students who had higher quality teachers for even one year were more likely to attend college, less likely to have teen pregnancies and more likely to have higher adult earnings.

Teachers’ groups who firmly believe that removing their job protection will not help students find greater success dispute the conclusions.

  1. The Senate in North Carolina wanted to increase teachers’ pay in exchange for tenure—by they changed their minds.

Senate leaders in North Carolina proposed an 11 percent pay increase for teachers. Senator Harry Brown introduced this proposal and pointed out that the budget plan would boost North Carolina to 27th in pay ranking for teachers in the U.S. Teachers in North Carolina will be ranked at 37th in pay though if the House’s plan is approved instead.

Representative Brian Holloway says he is glad to see that the Senate would no longer make pay raises contingent on whether or not teachers give up tenure, but also pointed out that the Senate wants to pay for the plan with the money gained through the elimination of teacher assistants.

Brown and Senator Bob Rucho defend the plan stating that since the teacher assistant model was put into place in classrooms, reading proficiency among children in North Carolina has not increased. In fact, proficiency has actually decreased. It was also noted that TA’s have no positive effect on student achievement and are not an essential classroom investment.

Senate leaders also proposed the idea of increasing the lottery advertisement budget to pay for the 5 percent increase in teacher salaries.

Representatives from the House’s plan are unwilling at this time to increase the lottery advertising budget.

I am interested to see whether the Senate or House proposal is passed. I do like that the Senate is offering an 11 percent pay raise to these teachers, but I do not like that the increase in pay is partially funded based on the elimination of Teacher Assistant positions.

The bottom line is this: teachers should be held accountable for their actions. Tenure shouldn’t protect the educators who aren’t making an impact in our students’ lives. We also need high quality teachers in our schools and no matter how many years a teacher has been on board, he or she should be held to the same expectations as the newest ones. With all that said, however, I do not think that scrapping tenure completely is the best way to increase the quality of teaching in our public schools.

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