Tenure in Today's Educational System
Michael Mares, Rick Mann , Elise Margolin, Lisa Mack
Grand Canyon University
Legal Issues in Education
Dr. Thomas Williams
February 13, 2010
This paper discusses several key issues surrounding the practice of teacher tenure, an often controversial and emotional subject in the arena of public education. The protection or terminations of teachers, lack of tenure in other occupations, the cost/benefit ratio, as well as the future of tenure are addressed.
Tenure in Today's Educational System
For the last one hundred years, teacher tenure has been part of American public education. “The start of the tenure movement paralleled similar labor struggles during the late 19th century” (Stephey, 2008) and in 1910 New Jersey was the first state to pass legislation guaranteeing “fair dismissal rights to college professors” (ibid). The ensuing years have seen the spread and continuance of tenure to all public educators. Today, tenure is becoming more closely scrutinized than ever due to the importance placed on student test scores, academic progress, and graduation rates. “Some teachers argue tenure has become a scapegoat for a whole basket of education and financial ills” (Stephey, 20008). Conversely, others argue that”…tenure, more often, protects good teachers from the misperceptions and politics of the job” (Koorstra, 2000). When it comes to the issue of teacher tenure, both sides do present valid arguments in their defense. It is well known that there are bad employees at every position in every job. But when poor teachers exist, they can both harm children and the profession. It is well known among teachers that some are better than others. Experienced teachers usually find themselves protected by tenure because it is hard and embarrassing to expose long time weak educators. Many teachers themselves agree that it is very difficult to fire teachers. "Between tenure and the documentation requirements, it's too hard for administrators to remove any but the very worst teachers." (Clowes, 2003, ¶ 4) All states are taking steps to ensure that only “highly qualified” teachers are teaching students in their area of expertise. “To be highly qualified under NCLB, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a teacher must have: 1. At least a bachelor’s degree; 2. and Full state certification; 3. and Demonstrated subject-matter competency in the core academic subjects assigned.”(Association of Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], 2010, ¶ 1) This means that thanks to NCLB, No Child Left Behind, the problem of poor teachers is being addressed. A weeding out of poor teachers has begun. Still, long time teachers, already hired, are grandfathered into teaching positions. Some of those teachers could be a source of the problem. Long time teachers can develop relationships with district leadership through long time interactions. Sometimes, though teacher skills may fall, corrective action may not occur. Unless reasons arise to call in suspicion of negligence of duty, veteran teachers may be beyond reproach. After all, if a teacher has survived in a district for over twenty years, administration would have to be very poorly skilled not to have noticed shortcomings. That could be a fact that few districts would want exposed. Therefore, a teacher may be put into classes with very strong students that require little by way of innovation and challenge. A gifted and talented environment could be an example of such an easy to teach environment. Educators should celebrate the release of mediocre teachers provided that due process is followed. Job security should not be threatened without due process. It would be a nightmare for the profession and for the communities that teachers serve should a...