Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Teacher-Tenure Essay Draws Passionate Response

April 14, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

Brent Harrington

Principal

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

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Bilingual Teachers Are in Short Supply. How 3 Districts Solved That Problem
Helping bilingual paraprofessionals obtain bachelor's degrees and teaching credentials leads to more bilingual teachers, districts found.
9 min read
Elizabeth Alonzo works as a bilingual aide with 2nd grade student Esteycy Lopez Perez at West Elementary in Russellville, Ala., on Dec. 9, 2022.
Elizabeth Alonzo works as a bilingual aide with 2nd grade student Esteycy Lopez Perez at West Elementary in Russellville, Ala., on Dec. 9, 2022. Alonzo obtained her bachelor's degree through a partnership with Reach University and the Russellville city schools district.
Tamika Moore for Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion How I’m Keeping Ahead of Burnout: 4 Tips for Teachers
An English teacher shares her best advice for battling the long-haul blahs until spring break.
Kelly Scott
4 min read
Young woman cartoon character making step from gloomy grey rainy weather to sunny clear day.
iStock/Getty + Education Week
Teaching Profession Opinion Why Is the Nation Invested in Tearing Down Public Education?
Education professor Deborah Loewenberg Ball argues that panic over test scores keeps us from building on the strengths of our children.
Deborah Loewenberg Ball
5 min read
Illustration of school text books and wrecking ball.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers Censor Themselves on Socio-Political Issues, Even Without Restrictive State Laws
A new survey from the RAND Corporation found that two-thirds of teachers limit their instruction on political and social issues in class.
4 min read
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class is debating whether President Trump should be impeached. The House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has become a teachable moment in classrooms around the country as educators incorporate the events in Washington into their lesson plans.
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class was debating whether President Trump should be impeached. A new national survey found that a majority of teachers are now limiting instruction on political and social issues in class.
Allen G. Breed/AP