The process for granting tenure should be fixed, a think-tank report released this morning says. The system as it is now doesn’t include consideration of student achievement. States and districts don’t invest in teacher standards or assessments necessary to make good tenure-granting decisions.
And here’s the kicker: Joan Baratz-Snowden, the former director of educational issues for the American Federation of Teachers, now a consultant, penned the report for the Center for American Progress.
What’s a former AFT official doing taking on tenure, you ask? Well, despite her initials, there’s no BS with Joan B-S. I can recall back when she was still at the AFT and the press people used to groan when I’d ask to speak to her, because she didn’t always stick to the party line. And that’s what makes this such an interesting report. The perspective it offers is going to be challenging for pretty much everyone who’s got skin in this particular game, both those who defend the current system of tenure and those who decry it.
For instance, although Snowden thinks the tenure process is in need of serious Band-Aids, she also thinks tenure is necessary, given the poor training of the principal force and the pressure teachers are under in the era of accountability.
Like an evaluation system, the tenure-granting process should be rooted in a common language for understanding teacher effectiveness and what the evidence of good teaching resembles, Snowden writes. Districts and teachers, through collective bargaining, should create a system based on data from multiple sources, including evidence of student learning and the quality of the school environment, and profession judgment of both teachers and administrators.
Snowden finds three examples of good tenure-granting processes: The Toledo peer assistance and review program, the Green Dot contract with its portfolio-based evaluation system, and the Minneapolis model, which requires teachers to assemble a collection of evidence of good teaching over three years.
Once you’ve read the report, why not write in and tell us whether and how you think tenure should be revised?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.