To the Editor:
David Finley’s Commentary argues that when determining teacher-tenure decisions, “two years is more than ample time for a principal to reach this conclusion.” Really?
Tenure influences the future academic achievement and growth of hundreds of students, often over several decades, since most teachers receiving tenure will remain in their districts for two decades or more. Such decisions translate into placing supreme confidence in the fact that this individual will have a positive impact on the lives of students and their learning for many, many years to come.
Often this is the case, but not always. Every district has a few grossly incompetent staff members who despite years of professional development and mentoring are either unable or unwilling to meet the needs of their students. It’s a shame that tenure gives them the right to neglect the minds of hundreds of children over the course of their careers. I continue to be amazed that we are not more outraged by how such teachers’ negligence continues to taint our profession.
In a field that has struggled for more than a century to earn the respect and admiration it deserves, we continue to be our own worst enemies by purporting to believe that good teaching is somehow innate. Mr. Finley argues that “indicators of teacher competence reveal themselves very quickly,” likening teacher quality to either a piano virtuoso or novice. It is unfortunate that we continue to see our profession in this light. Other professions demand rigorous preparation as essential for high performance.
I agree that teaching is a calling, but it is a calling that requires extraordinary preparation. I, too, believe in the importance of tenure, but I also believe that two years is hardly long enough to adequately assess a teacher’s ability to positively impact the lives of students for decades to come.
Haldane Elementary and Middle School
Cold Spring, N.Y.
For more reader opinions about Vergara v. California and the implications for teacher tenure, browse the following letters:
• “Bad Leaders Damage More Than a Classroom,” April 15, 2015.
• “Teachers Aren’t Alone in Being Vilified,” April 15, 2015.
• “School Boards and Tedium Mar Evaluation Process,” April 15, 2015.
A version of this article appeared in the April 15, 2015 edition of Education Week as Teacher-Tenure Essay Draws Passionate Responses