Teaching Profession Opinion

Reason #3 Why CTA Needs to Reimagine Tenure NOW

By Phylis Hoffman — June 29, 2015 2 min read
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Before I move on to reason number three for why the California’s Teacher Association (CTA) needs to reimagine tenure now, let me recap reasons number one and two. Reason number one is to restore faith in our public school system. Reason number two is because we need to ensure that our most vulnerable students are with our best teachers.

The reasons I’ve come up with so far have all been grounded in reaction to Vergara v. California. Vergara continues to make a lot of noise nationally and here in California. Just last week, on June 24, the plaintiffs in Vergara filed their appeal brief. Over the following weekend, this article popped up on my Facebook feed from the American Federation of Teachers, “How Due Process Protects Teachers and Students” by Richard D. Kahlenberg. Here’s a quote:

I believe that rather than doing away with tenure, dismissal procedures could be mended to strike the right balance between providing fairness to good teachers and facilitating the removal of incompetent ones. I also believe there are innovative ways to connect low-income students with great teachers.

This all leads to my third reason of why CTA needs to reimagine tenure now: Teachers want it.

In working on the Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) paper, Reimagining Tenure Protecting Our Students and Our Profession, my teaching colleagues and I polled a diverse group of education stakeholders. We polled administrators, other school based-staff, parents, students, and over 300 plus Los Angeles Unified educators. Thus, all teachers polled for the E4E paper are members of a union - the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). Out of the 300 plus teachers we polled, 60 percent of them had 10 or more years of experience. Here’s a summary of what teachers in our poll were thinking about tenure:

When asked if “Tenure decisions are too automatic (and you never need to reapply) to be meaningful,” over two-thirds of the teachers said that this was a “very” or “somewhat” important reason to reform tenure.

Over 70 percent of the teachers polled believed that tenure not leading to an increase in pay or leadership opportunities as a “very” or “somewhat” important reason to reform tenure.

Teachers in the poll also weighed in on whether classroom effectiveness should be reflected in the tenure process. Over 80 percent of the teachers polled indicated that not including classroom effectiveness as part of our current tenure system is a “very” or “somewhat” important reason to reform tenure.

Teach Plus, another teacher policy advocacy group, also polled California teachers on the issues of tenure. They published their results in a paper titled, Raising the Bar: The Views of California Teachers on Tenure, Layoffs, and Dismissals, In their poll, Teach Plus surveyed 506 teachers whom all teach in California public schools (charter school teachers were intentionally left out of their polling).

There are clear similarities. One way their polling matches the E4E polling was around the number of years teachers should have to teach in order to be granted tenure. Sixty-five percent of the teachers polled believe tenure should become a next career step after three to five years in the classroom. Twenty-one percent thought six or more years should be the amount of time required. Another area of commonality includes classroom effectiveness as a factor in tenure decisions. Both groups of teachers polled showed agreement. In the Teach Plus poll, “92 percent teachers believe that they should be required to demonstrate classroom effectiveness as part of the tenure decision.”

The teachers of California have spoken. I hope CTA is listening.

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