Teacher Tenure Should Be About More Than Seniority

Public education tends not to be friendly to compromise, yet a new report shows there are signs that teachers want detente in a particularly contentious area of education in the wake of a landmark lawsuit. As educators figure out how to navigate the thorny issue of tenure after the Vergara ruling, a new report from Teach Plus highlights the importance of soliciting teacher input to arrive at solutions. Teach Plus surveyed a representative sample of more than 500 teachers in California about their views on such issues as tenure, layoffs and dismissal. A key takeaway: California teachers would like tenure to be based on performance. They also believe 18 months, the minimum amount of experience teachers must have to qualify for tenure in the state, is not enough to weigh whether teachers should earn tenure. Far from shying away at being held accountable for how effective they are at their jobs, California teachers embrace higher benchmarks to achieve tenure. The vast majority of teachers surveyed in the report, 92 percent, said successful classroom performance should be factored into tenure decisions. They also think teachers should acquire more experience before they come up for tenure. Sixty-five percent surveyed said three to five years in the classroom are needed before administrators can adequately evaluate teachers. Mike Stryer, vice president for district and union policy at Teach Plus and a co-author of the report, said the results point to a promising direction for an issue that has roiled by controversy.
Teachers are very clear both on the value of tenure and on the need to modify the current system so that tenure becomes an earned, performance-based standard. The report presents a real opportunity for policy makers to move beyond polarized debate and have an open conversation with teachers about modernizing the current statutes.
Caroline Bermudez
Caroline Bermudez is chief storyteller at the Charter School Growth Fund and former senior writer at Education Post. Bermudez has been a journalist for almost 10 years. She was staff editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, covering the nonprofit world, with a particular focus on foundations and high net-worth giving. She has interviewed prominent business, political and philanthropic leaders ...

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