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Author Topic: Tenure  (Read 1229 times)

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The EETicket Arachnid

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« on: February 18, 2011, 12:00:27 AM »
17 February 2011, 8:31 pm

(News-Herald, February 10) It’s time once again for politicians around the country to wind up the educational wind machine. And this time the big wind is trying to blow away teacher tenure.

Tenure, the argument goes, is no longer necessary or desirable. With tenure swept away, classroom teachers will be subject to market forces that will justly reward the strong and punish the incompetent. That makes a certain amount of sense, though I do have one question—will these be the same market forces that have been kicking many of America’s best workers in the teeth for the past twenty years? Or maybe the same market forces that have insured that the crooks who ran the megabanks into the ground stay fat, happy, out of jail, and raking in massive bonuses after doing their best to trash the US economy?

I cannot take people seriously when they start suggesting that teachers live on an insulated island, protected by a wall of fluffy bunnies and unicorns from the Real World Outside. This RWO, the story goes, is a survival-of-the-fittest meritocracy, where to thrive you must be excellent and the weak and incompetent are kicked to the curb. And yet, this is the world in which Snooki and Paris Hilton are famous celebrities and ER nurses are not. This is the world where the Herb Baum’s get to retire in rich comfort and the people whose jobs they trashed get to consider working as a Wal-Mart greeter. Surely we have higher aspirations for schools.

I would still concede the point if tenure really were a magical insulator that protected the most incompetent teachers, but it isn’t. Teacher tenure is not a guarantee of a job for life.

First, tenure is not automatic. Here in Venangoland, a teacher is not granted tenure until a few years in the classroom. Before the teacher receives tenure, the district can let him go for any reason. Districts have a window during which they can watch a teacher closely and determine if he is filled with promise or with something that doesn’t smell nearly as nice as promise.

Second, tenure doesn’t guarantee the teacher a lifetime job. What it guarantees is due process in case the district attempts to fire him.

Tenure is insurance that teachers don’t work in fear of being fired for reasons having nothing to do with competence. It is not hard to imagine a school board member asking a teacher out on a date or demanding more playing time for his child on a sports team. What happens if such complaints can be coupled with credible job threats?

Some guarantees of due process have improved considerably since tenure first appeared. Back then female teachers were fired for getting married or wearing pants. Today, as Cranberry Schools learned years ago, you cannot fire a teacher for being gay—and it doesn’t take tenure to provide that protection.

Like many legal processes, tenure has grown a variety of extraneous limbs and branches, particularly in big city districts with gargantuan teacher staffs. This can make getting rid of a teacher an expensive and frustrating proposition.

There is no denying that tenure is one of the perks of teaching. Teachers don’t get promotions, and we aren’t getting rich any time soon, but we have some job security, and we would be smart to recognize how enviable that is to many Americans.

Likewise, critics should recognize that good teachers have no interest in saving the jobs of their incompetent colleagues. A teacher who can’t or won’t do her job annoys to the teachers who must pick up her slack. But they don’t want to live in fear of an axe that may fall without warning at any time for any reason.

This is not a problem with a simple solution. Some folks would like teachers’ jobs simply tied to student test results, which is a great idea if you think you should pick your surgeon based on how nice his manicure is. Finding incompetent teachers isn’t always that easy (but we’ll discuss that another day).

Reform tenure, or pass new due process laws—either way, it’s still in a school district’s best interests to know that they can work to gather a top notch staff without a rogue board member or administrator becoming the capricious bull in the educational china shop.

All of the tenure debate sidesteps another issue. Few of the best and the brightest are drawn into teaching, and many quickly run right back out. After you fire a teacher, then what?

Source: Venangoland

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