Tenure Argument

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Danielle Adams
4-11-12

Tenure: A Student Stalemate

“Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” Mr. John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989).
Time and time again, Hollywood has presented the power and influence a good teacher can have on the lives of young students. Most of us have had an influential teacher at least once in our lives. Imagine what we could have become if all our teachers had been willing to pull extra weight to help us achieve our full potential. In today's society, the public school system for K-12 is failing. America has become in the lowest percentile in the world for math and science. How can this be in a country with so many freedoms and advantages? Perhaps one of the largest factors in the failing school system is the lack of good teachers. At the head of this crashing train is tenure. We need to rid public school systems of tenure, implement more aggressive evaluation processes for educators, and reward or discipline teachers according to their achievements in the classroom. America's public school system would be better off eliminating tenure and implementing a two tier system based on teacher merit. Thousands of low-performing teachers in the American school system are being supported and encouraged by tenure. Tenure focuses on the welfare of the teachers, not the students. But that is backwards. Teaching should be about the students, not the individuals being paid to educate them. We are providing our educators with protection when we should be providing protection for the pupils. President Barack Obama said, “It's time to start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones... I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences.”[1] The system he rejects is our current system. If we're going to provide our children with the best education possible we need to stop teacher mediocrity. America has one of the largest education budgets in the world.[2] So why is it that 70% of 8th graders cannot read proficiently? Why is it that approximately 1.2 million Americans today drop out of high school every year?[3] As more money is being fed into the education budget every year, student achievement is still not improving. This education problem is hurting our economy[4] and ineffective teaching is largely to blame. It is crucial that we provide our children with the best possible education, especially if we expect to compete with other nations. Tenure for grades K-12 was originally created to protect teachers from arbitrarily being fired. Before tenure, teachers could be fired for their religious or political beliefs, or for the way they lived their lives. Tenure was intended to ensure a teacher was only terminated when he or she failed to meet a requirement clearly defined by educational standards given by the school. But what was once used as a way to protect effective teachers for being unjustly fired has become a protection for ineffective teachers to lack in their profession. The need for tenure and its protections has passed. Every American professional today is protected by law against unfair unemployment practices.[5] This includes one being fired for their religious or political beliefs. In the airline business, pilots rarely receive the job security of permanent contracts.[6] In the medical field, doctors can easily lose their medical licenses for numerous types of misconduct, permanently losing their ability to work as a doctor.[7] Both pilots and doctors are trusted with our children's lives in their hands, just as teachers are. And yet, pilots, doctors and other such professionals aren't given the same kind of job security. So, as Larry Rosenstock, CEO of eight California charter schools has asked: “What is it that is so exceptional about teachers that they should have this unique right?”[8] Many in favor of tenure argue that tenure is a way to attract and keep more qualified teachers which increases the efficiency...
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