Logan Anderson, Dr. Z Final 12/8/10 Tenure Toss Up Some would argue that education is one of the most important things in an individual’s life. School is where people learn many things, and more than just out of books things like; friendship, sharing, right vs. wrong, and discipline. Most people have been there, the alarm clock going off at 6:30 a. m, its still dark outside, and frost has built up on the window. The last thing you want to do is unravel out of your blanket cocoon. It takes more than your mom telling you to get up, to get you to roll out of bed, and go to school.
It takes interest in a subject, and the will to be successful. Nobody will be interested enough in going to school, if they have teachers that are not interested, or qualified to teach them. This has become the problem with the American education system today, when educators are protected by tenure laws, and continue to poorly educate America’s youth. Everyone will end up paying the difference. As long as there is no standard criterion to rate our teachers by, America’s education status will continue to fall. This paper will inform you on what teacher tenure is, how it started, and how it is currently used.
How tenure is starting to be a burden on more than just the children in the school system today. Those taxpayers that are being affected, even after a teacher is fired, or retires. The steps are taken towards firing an “unqualified teacher”, and how the process plays out. Tenures future, and how some school districts have addressed the issue. Tenure is a problem that is long over due for change. Tenure has “been called the holy grail of the teaching profession-academic freedom plus job security all rolled nicely into a union contract”(Stephey 1).
Tenure evolved from the very “labor struggles during the late 19th century. Just as steel and auto workers fought against unsafe working conditions and unlivable wages, teachers too demanded protection from parents and administrators who would try to dictate lesson plans or exclude controversial materials like Huck Finn”(1). New jersey was the first move towards tenure, “in 1910, it granted fair-dismissal rights to college professors”(1). It wasn’t until the suffrage movement of the “1920’s-when emale teachers could be fired for getting married or getting pregnant or […] wearing pants”(2). That tenure would be “extended to elementary and high school teachers as well”(2). Which is now becoming a problem in America today, and as the Chancellor of the Washing D. C school district Michelle Rhee stated, “that it inadvertently protects incompetent teachers from being fired”(1). Requirements to be a tenured teacher according to Mathew Drugg a former special education teacher at Northfield High school, “Really there isn’t anything you need to do to get tenured.
You get observed about three times a year which should be more and should be done anyway and if you are lucky enough to not get cut due to budget or changes in services once you make it past the third year you are usually good to go. ” This is defined as a “Probationary status for three years before they are tendered a contract that grants them tenure or an expectation of continuing employment”(Nixon, Andy, Packard, Abbot, Douvanis, and Bus 2) after completing the probationary period, and have managed to stick around the district.
Then it is up to the superintend recommending a teacher to the school board for a vote. In recent cases the school board had acknowledged the superintends intention of the teacher being tenured, by voting in his favor (Hill 1). This being the process for many years, except “On Jan. 9, 1995, the board of education of the Patchogue-Medford Union Free school district […] Superintendent Raymond Fell had recommended that two elementary school special-education teachers […] be granted tenure”(Hill 1). In this particular situation, when the superintendent passed on a tenure request for two teachers.
He had though the school board would approve his request and trust his judgment. They had other plans, and decided there would be a vote on the matter. The vote may have been brought up to show the taxpayers living in the South Ocean school district, that administration is not intentionally keeping poor educators employed by the district because “they know they will be held responsible if they are defending teachers who aren’t any good” quoted by Haycock of the Education Trust (Eve, Register and Sam 4).
These teachers may have been great teachers, and very well may have deserved tenure, but there was no proof of this since there is nothing to “tie teacher evaluations to student performance”(Campo-Flores and Arian 1). When there is no way to rate the quality of something, no one will know if it’s a reliable resource. If a protein bar had no nutrition facts, or ingredients on the label there is no way to know what is really in there. Well if a teacher isn’t required to show their ingredients as in lesson plans, or nutrition facts as in test scores, again there is no way to know what they are capable of.
There is also no way to tell what you will gain by keeping these teachers around. A state of prosperity and fame is the definition of success, so why give the fame to a teacher who hasn’t shown anything to be prosperous about? This being the exact reason a school district in the nations capitol has been trying to change the tenure law that “Would offer those willing to forgo tenure protections the opportunity to earn up to $131,000 by next school year if their students post significant learning gains”(Sawchuk 1).
The change would “Swap job protection for salaries that outpace what most teachers ever realize”(1). If it were changed to incentive-based system, there would be “Higher salaries […] to attract high quality teachers to the school system”(1). Another plan that is being brought forth in the same district is dividing the teachers salaries into two different categories “Teachers electing the “red” tier would receive pay boosts based years of experience, and education attainted. Those teacher’s salaries would increase by 28 percent over five years-a significant increase in a sluggish economy.
Teachers electing to join the “green” tier would give up tenure protections for one year and would have to win their principals’ approval to regain permanent status […] green tier teachers could earn up to $20,000 yearly in bonuses based on student academic growth”(Sawchuk 2). This plan would have outstanding gains due, to the fact that “Not one good teacher will care if they have tenure or not. They are more than comfortable to let their skills show that they are the best and deserve to have the job” stated by Drugg
A serious change is in order for taxpayer’s dollars, when teachers are granted a raise every year with no proof they deserve it. “They’re threatening the fiscal health of many states and could cost you-yes, you-thousands of dollars. […] Insiders see big trouble ahead in the next few years and are starting to sound warnings”(Rotherham 1). Tenure does fall into play with a select few other professions such as judges, and college professors. “Tenure at the high school and elementary school level is nothing more than guaranteed job security.
When it is coupled with automatic pay increases through step increases, it becomes an onerous, lifetime burden on the taxpayers for 20 years”(Hill and David 2). Defeating tenure is a high priority in many districts across the nation, since it “has long been an embarrassment as well as a threat to the nation’s future”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant, and Register 1) but is often denied once it reaches the teaching union on account “teachers unions have become more and more powerful, after two or three years teachers are given lifetime tenure”(2).
If tenure were considered more of a privileged achievement, teachers would go beyond expectations to achieve tenure. “There is little incentive in many cases to work harder than your collogues” quoted by Mathew Drugg in an interview. Instead, they are basically promised a spot in a school despite, their discrepancies. “Some teachers have taken advantage of this and more or less “mail it in” day in and day out,” stated Drugg. Allowing someone a right they know they are going to get, as long as they can make it through three years of teaching, also known as the probationary period.
They will make it to tenure, and maybe give it a good run for a couple years. After that, they will start to lack in certain areas, such as enthusiasm, causing them to be dull. If they want their students to listen to them they need to put some life into their lesson plans, and “inspire young minds”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and register 1) A student should not be expected to be interested in a topic, or even show notice when the teacher showing their class is not going to put forth at least the same effort. Teachers need to take more action towards getting their students into the material.
The student does play a role in this, but it’s not an uncommon sight to see students unaware of what’s being talked about, even to see the slightest concern of being in certain classes. “What really makes a difference, what matters more than the class size or the textbook, the teaching method or the technology, or even the curriculum, is the quality of the teacher”(1). If a teacher cannot get at least half the class involved somehow, how are they going to teach the material that needs to be tested on. If the students cannot stay alert during a lecture, the information is going to go in one ear and out another, without even being processed.
There is no way they’ll be prepared, and ready to be tested on the material. Test scores are an indicator of how well teacher projects information, except it is not recognized to evaluate a teacher, “measuring teacher performance based in part on the test scores of their pupils would seem to be a no-brainer […] its prohibited by law for tenure decisions in states […] where the teachers union has long been powerful”(4). If teacher’s tests scores drop year after year, they should not be granted a raise year after year “Student test scores are but one factor in measuring the teacher effectiveness. The problem with student test scores is that children are not evenly distributed. If you’re not careful, you end up with incentives for good teachers to avoid kids in need’” (Hill, Barth 2). Then those kids are cheated out of an education, “For students, quality teaching means the difference between a bright or potentially dim future”(Nixon, Packard and Douvanis 1) The lack of qualities really put a question on how administrators decide the teachers to hire. Quality of teachers has fallen rapidly in the United States, “Once upon a time, American students tested better than any other students in the world.
Now, ranked against European school children, America does about as well as Lithuania, behind at least ten other nations”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 1) This raised some concerns, as to which where are our educators coming from to lower our scores so much. “Most school teachers are recruited from the bottom third of college bound high school students, Finland takes the top ten percent. ” (2) “Initially the law defined ‘highly qualified teachers’ as only those with state certification, a bachelor’s degree, and demonstrated competence in subject knowledge”(Hill and Barth 6).
This would cause many issues between teacher and student. If a student is learning something from their teacher who knows as little as them in the subject as they do, they wont have an example or any experience to give insight on the subject. Leaving the students out of reach of a fair chance to learn the information. If we deprive our youth of serious teachers, there is no way we should seriously expect them to improve our nations test scores. Experience gives credibility. The most experienced ones may not always be the smartest, but will have more knowledge on what to do, and not to do.
Which is why on November 10th 2010 “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surprised everyone […] by tapping publishing executive Cathleen Black to be the city’s new school chancellor”(Rotherham 1). She will be in control of “The cities 1,700 school, 80,000 teachers, and more than a million students”(1). Teaching really can be done anyway the instructor wants to go about it, that is the beauty. Teaching is an art; it takes creativity, which is why Bloomberg chose Black “There is no evidence that school leadership-preparation programs or the elaborate credentialing requirements for school leaders have any impact on quality”(2).
New York City’s “School system’s annual budget of more than $21 billion exceeds the gross domestic product of nearly half the worlds countries”(1). For someone to manage a budget like this takes “A track record of turning around distressed companies”(1). Like in Blacks case, ”Can transfer her considerable talent for change management to the New York City schools […] no credential lessons the risk in a high-stake leadership role”(2). An opportunity is in their hands to change a whole school system, to put a qualified teacher in each classroom.
To value ones education, it starts with the teachers’ administration hires. When it comes down to choosing who will represent your school “Nothing, then, is more important than hiring good teachers and firing bad ones”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 2). If students are expected to value what their teacher is saying, the administration should value their right to an education. When hiring a teacher, you are not only getting someone to instruct a class.
You are bringing this person into your community, and “Most award educators lifetime job protection after just three years on the job”(Goldstein 1). When one is awarded tenure, then they can join a union. Thus making them much more difficult to get rid of if they are not up to par. This takes a toll on not only the students, who of which what this all of this is about, but the surrounding community “Because ultimately taxpayers are on the hook for that money”(Rotherham 1) to pay the teachers. There are some pretty severe consequences that lie underneath and tax payers nose. Though tenure doesn’t guarantee lifetime employment, it does make firing teachers a difficult and costly process, one that involves the union, the school board, the principal, the judicial system and thousands of dollars in legal fees. In most states, a tenured teacher can’t be dismissed until charges are filed and districts must shell out thousands of dollars for paid leave and substitute instructors”(Stephey 1). So there are ways you can be fired if you are a tenured teacher, but “The academic freedom that enure was meant to protect has been severely curtailed”(2). Considering that there is little you can do when “Many principals don’t even try to weed out the poor performers (or they transfer them to other schools in what’s been dubbed the “dance of lemons””(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 2). So when a teacher is not good enough to teach in one school system, passing them off to another district is the next best thing. Looking at the current pension problem in the teaching world, “Where 30-year careers are no longer the norm.
The current setup penalizes teachers who move between states, private or public-charter schools that do not participate in the pension system or leave teaching altogether”(Rotherham 1). This along with the difficulties with the union can cause many problems firing a teacher when “About 99 percent of all teachers in the united states are rated “satisfactory” by their school systems”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 2). When nearly all teachers around the country are considered satisfactory, makes it just that much harder to fire them. A Connecticut teacher received a mere 30-day suspension for helping a student cheat on standardized test”(Stephey 1). Does this also mean the teacher “Who told a student who attempted suicide to “carve deeper next time” and another who kept a stash of pornography and cocaine at school; both are still teaching”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 5) are satisfactory teachers, since they still teach. The problem was they were tenured teachers, and to fire them is a long costly battle. A battle that goes back to the taxpayers, which includes not only salaries while they are working but, even after they are fired or retire. Teacher pensions are part of a larger set of benefits that states and cities offer public employees”(Rotherham 1). “Only teachers who taught for 25 or 30 years reap the full benefits. (And since in some states these longtime teachers can be paid as much each year as they were making their last few years of teaching, boomers who retire in their 50’s or 60’s and live for 30 more years can end up earning more from their pension than they did cumulatively during their three decades in the classroom)”(2).
A scary thought for someone wanting to go into the field of education, as I do. Am I guaranteed all of this, if I can get a job that is. They say if you leave the teaching profession once your in “It becomes financial suicide for teachers to change careers after a certain point, even if they no longer want to teach anymore or are not good at it”(Rotherham 1). Stating that even if you know you are a bad teacher you continue to teach, you can consciously give Americas youth a poor education. A problem arising in the teaching field, that worries me.
I plan to come out of college and be able to find a job; this is becoming less and less possible. There will be openings, but with so many teachers waiting their retirement, it seems farfetched. There are currently 2. 3 million tenured teachers today, “In New York City in 2008, three out of 30,000 tenured teachers were dismissed for cause. […] The percentage of teachers dismissed for poor performance in Chicago between 2005 and 2008 (the most recent figures available) was 0. 1 percent. In Akron, Ohio, zero percent. In Toledo 0. 1 percent, and in Denver zero percent”(Thomas, Wingert, Conant and Register 2). Meaning not many job openings have become available lately. Since there are educators not full filling their duties, but are protected by tenure “The system creates a small number of big winners at the expense of many losers”(Rotherham 2). There is nothing people awaiting these positions can do, besides wait for an opening, ”Over 90% of new hires are simply replacements for recent departures”(Hill, Barth 2). Meaning tenure is causing unemployment, by protecting teaching that may not be deserving of tenure.
An example of protecting a tenured teacher, in my senior year of high school, I had to take a chemistry class to be eligible to attend a university in the fall. I had no choice of who my teacher would be, I was placed in a class with a teacher who’s style of teaching chemistry was to lecture all eighty minutes non-stop, give you things to research on your own, and tell you how a lab should turn out and make you blaze your own trail. I found this very ineffective, considering more than half the class had an “F” after the first test. We were tested on things that we were expected to find in our personal research.
There was no suggested sources to use and, or references. I struggled through the quarter to pass with a “ C-“; luckily everyone did poorly on the final putting a big curve on the test. The next quarter of the class, I was assigned to a different instructor. This teacher’s style was to, still lecture but would stop after each point and make sure it was sinking in with everyone. There would be daily discussion on points of interest, and he would demonstrate each lab before we were expected to do it ourselves, this way we had an idea if it was going wrong.
The first week in that quarter was review, I learned everything in that week that was so hazy for the whole previous quarter. I ended that class with an “A-“, giving me the conclusion that teaching style has a huge affect on the success of students. A serious change is in order, before tenure is taken too far. An incentive-based system would work much better. “Raising teacher quality has become education reform’s top priority”(Hill and Barthe 5). While raising teacher quality is a top priority, then some changes need to be made.
Other industries that use incentive based models seem to run fairly smooth, the better you perform the more you get paid. “Higher salaries would improve the district’s ability to attract high-quality teachers to the school system”(Sawchuk 1) There shouldn’t be a system that grants you immunity from actually doing your job if you don’t want, and then be rewarded year after year. If there are more incentives towards success, success will be achieved. Once tenured there is nothing to work towards for teachers, and they can just kick back and let everything run its course.
If we had an incentive-based system, this would require a teacher to show progress reports. Allowing tests scores to show if they are a quality teacher or not. Also this system would allow students to really get the full effect in what this is really all about, their education. America’s youth population is the generations to come. A plan to solve the teacher pension is also in order, “It would be easy to blame these shortfalls on the recent upheaval on Wall Street amid the Great Recession”(Rotherham 1). That would be too easy some professions don’t even have a form of pay after you retire.
Thus a plan to have teachers, personally pay into their own plans, or savings, and plan ahead for their future. This would keep the taxpayers happy, and more willing to paying higher salaries. That could make up for the monthly amount paid into your account, rather than still paying retired teachers, and current teachers. “Keep in mind that these pension systems are binding contracts, so in practice this means that as more teachers retire, state taxpayers will have to make up the difference through higher taxes, fewer services or both. …] Unlike Social Security, which relies on a nationwide base of people paying into the system, states and cities aren’t propped up by an endless supply of new teachers”(Rotherham 1 and 2). Until we start rating our teachers by certain standards they will continue to disappoint. Its when we figure out a different system is when we can start to progress, and grow towards better education systems. “Policy makers need to update to the 20th century”(Rotherham 2). I have given some solutions to the problem, but there is one more addition.
This paper has been about the current tenure system, and its faults. There should be a form of tenure, but a modified version. An incentive based, tenure plan would be very beneficial. It would cause colleges to try to be better than their fellow teachers, continue learning more, and better styles of teaching. Also it would give protection to those really deserving of the privilege, and expose those who do not belong. I come to the conclusion that, As long as teachers continue to fail their students, their students will continue to fail on far more than just tests. Work Cited
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