The teacher-tenure conversation was already pretty loud and heated. And then TIME magazine
dropped the hammer. Well, the gavel, actually. But it landed with the force of a sledgehammer. Much of the response has focused on the “Rotten Apples” cover…and understandably so. As
Tim Daly at TNTP pointed out recently, the post-Vergara conversations about tenure have been too focused on the extremes—either get rid of tenure altogether or leave it as is—when
it should be a more nuanced discussion, focused on fixing tenure and making it more meaningful. And regardless of which side of the tenure debate you’re on, you’ll have a hard time arguing that the TIME cover conveys nuance.
Finding a Better Conversation
Our Education Post poll of parents and grandparents of school-aged children shows strong support for a measured approach to modifying tenure and last-in-first-out staffing rules, with 71 percent supporting this statement: “extending the trial period before teachers receive tenure, and reforming laws that force schools to let teachers go based on seniority, rather than effectiveness.” And once you get past the incendiary cover, the story itself is quite balanced and measured, although too eager to jump to the conclusion that philanthropist-funded legal challenges are the last, best hope for fixing tenure. There has been plenty of progress made across the country by school districts, states, and unions on teacher-effectiveness laws and programs. And while there’s still a lot of tough work ahead, there’s plenty of reason to believe it can get done with the focus remaining on the classroom instead of the courtroom, as one California teacher
suggested in the LA Times.
Read All the Way Down to the Comments
Perhaps the best part of the Time package on tenure reform is the series of
responses to the cover that are now posted—teachers, students, parents, politicians, and union leadership sharing their perspectives on the issue:
For five more years it was more of the same. I worked tirelessly to innovate new programs, build literacy, raise test scores, and despite support from my students, their families, my administrators and colleagues, I was laid off every year due to my lack of seniority. While I was called back at the end of each summer, that notice was always a harsh reminder that my work with students actually didn’t matter.
—Los Angeles teacher Christopher Ciampa
In fact, as I reflect on my high school career, I realize that I have been incredibly fortunate to have had many excellent teachers over the past 4 years. Teachers who have been instrumental in encouraging my natural curiosity, influencing my view of the world and ensuring that I have the knowledge and skills I will need to be successful in college and later in life. I also have come to realize, however, that many students are not as fortunate.
—California high school student Courtney Brousseau
When you get past TIME’s provocative presentation, there’s a thoughtful and nuanced conversation waiting for you.
Michael Vaughn was the founding Communications Director of Education Post. Prior to that, Mike worked for 18 years in the communications offices of two urban school districts. He served in a variety of communications roles for the Chicago Public Schools starting in 1996, shortly after Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of CPS, and eventually served as the district's Communications Director until ...