Recruitment & Retention

States Take Up Tenure Reform

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 18, 2009 1 min read
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Think performance pay is the biggest teacher-policy controversy going on right now? Hold on to your hats, because it looks like the issue of teacher tenure is poised to leap onto the national scene, with at least three states considering changes to their systems for granting tenure, which grants certain “due process” rights to teachers before they can be dismissed.

In Ohio, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland wants to grant teachers tenure after nine years, rather than the current three. (I wonder how many teachers would actually stay around long enough to earn it.) It would also allow tenured teachers to be dismissed for “just cause.” Currently, teachers can only be dismissed for “gross immorality” or “inefficiency.” (Hat tip to Flypaper for this news.).

In Florida, Republican legislators are preparing to submit legislation to give teachers annual contracts for their first 10 years in the classroom and then contracts of no more than five years after that. Essentially, that plan would make teachers at-will employees for their first 10 years.

And, of course, there’s D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s proposal to push tenure-granting back from two to four years and require current teachers to forgo it for a year in exchange for the opportunity to win bonuses.

Teachers’ unions and other supporters of tenure say it’s necessary to guard against arbitrary dismissals by principals. We’ve all heard horror stories about how political school buildings can be, but is there any real data on whether school administrators are typically more vindictive than other employers? And is NCLB changing the game at all? Principals are under enormous pressure to raise standardized test scores and so one would think they would want to keep the most effective teachers and lose the ones who aren’t pulling their weight. But is that the case in reality?

This is a very tricky area. So let’s hear your thoughts on tenure.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.