Teacher Tenure

One issue among many issues in today’s education system is teacher tenure. The problem with teacher tenure is that it makes firing an incompetent teacher virtually impossible. Many teachers in public schools have tenure, according to Education Reporter; approximately 80% of public school teachers have tenure (“Why Bad Teachers…” 1). This in turn then affects the amount the students learn and progress. In order for the education system to improve the problem of teacher tenure, needs to find a solution. The amount of time and money required to fire a tenured teacher makes it difficult to remove underperforming teachers, and affects students.

Tenured teachers are difficult to be fired because of the amount of money and time required by the schools and state. In many states it can take almost a year to fire a tenured teacher, there are even some states where it could take over a year to fire a tenured teacher. According to, in the state of Michigan it can take up to 355 days to fire a tenured teacher (“Teacher Tenure” 1). In an Education Reporter article “Why Bad Teachers…” it states that the Ney York State School Boards Association found that it takes an average of 455 days to dismiss a tenured teacher (1). This process of firing a tenured teacher also costs the state a lot of money, according to a school in Los Angeles a three and a half million dollars to try and fire 7 under performing teachers (“Teacher Tenure” 3). Due to the amount of time and money required of the schools and states, they are not firing underperforming teachers. According to “ Protecting Bad Teachers,” in a Chicago school district 28.5% of 11th grade students met or exceeded expectations on Chicago’s state standardized tests, only 0.1% of teachers were dismissed for performance related reasons between 2005 and 2006 (1). “Between 1995 and 2005, only 112 Los Angeles tenured teachers faced termination – eleven per year – out of 43,000.

And that’s in a school district where the graduation rate in 2003 was just 51 percent, (“Protecting Bad Teachers” 1). As reported by in “Teacher Tenure,” 81% of school administrators reported that they knew of a poorly performing tenured teacher at their school; however 86% administrators said they do not always pursue dismissal, (1). The point is that teachers that are not meeting the standards still have their jobs, because the school districts and statescannot afford to spend the time and money on firing them; they therefore continue to teach and it directly affects student test scores and graduation rate. There are cases although where the school instead of firing the teacher they move them to different positions. In LA and San Francisco they pay suspended teachers to answer phones, work in ware houses, or just stay home. One case of a teacher being moved is that of Patricia Adams, her story can be found in the New Yorker’s article “The Rubber Room,” (2-3).

In November of 2005, Adams was found unconscious in her classroom, the principal tried to wake her up but she did not wake up. A teacher at the scene reported that he could smell what he believed to be alcohol on her. Adams two years later returned to teach one last semester and then a secretary position, as long as she had not found another teaching job, and she would be required to have random alcohol testing. In February of 2009, she passed out in the office she worked in a drug and alcohol testing services technician was called to the scene and reported that Adams could not even blow into a breathalyzer and her water bottle contained alcohol. Adams was eventually fired, but cost the school and state a decent amount of money. People like Patricia Adams should be fired when the first incident occurs so they do not cost the state any more money. Tenured teachers that are

under performing are not being fired because of the amount of money and time they cost states and schools.
Underperforming teachers are not fired due to the amount of money and time required to fire them and in turn affect student’s learning. In some cases teachers that are not performing to standards are moved to “Rubber Rooms,” where they will do the least amount of “damage” to a student’s education, these rooms normally contain remedial students. However, there are some extreme cases where teachers are put in a room and are not responsible for students. In New York City according to The New York Daily News” there is an average of 700 teachers being paid not to teach, because it would cost too much to fire them, (“Protecting Bad Teachers” 2). In The New Yorker it describes a Rubber Room “It’s a June morning, and there are fifteen people in the room, four of them fast asleep, their heads lying on a card table. Three are playing a board game. Most of the others stand around chatting.
Two are arguing over one of the folding chairs. But there are no children here. The inhabitants are all New York City schoolteachers who have been sent to what is officially called a Temporary Reassignment Center but which everyone calls a Rubber Room,” (The Rubber Room 1). The author then states that these teachers stay in the Rubber Room and get paid to do nothing for an average of three years. These teachers take money from the system and affect the students. A student’s success is dependent on consistently having a good teacher. As stated in the New Yorker, “Kids succeeding in school isn’t money spent on buildings or books, but, rather the quality of their teachers… ‘having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap,’”(The Rubber Room 4).

A student simply cannot be successful in school if they do not have a good teacher. Early elementary students can suffer long – term negative effects, even if they have good teachers later on. The way concepts build on each other throughout school make it very difficult to catch up after a year with a bad teacher. In the MET project it states “Teachers previously identified as more effective caused students to learn more. Groups of teachers who had been identified as less effective caused students to learn less,” (Ensuring Fair…Effective Teaching 3). The success of students relies on the effectiveness of their teachers. In order for the education system to improve, the majority of teachers need to be effective in their teaching styles.

There are many different possible solutions to the problem with teacher tenure, including the Peer Intervention Program Plus, taking away tenure, and more effective ratings of teachers. The Peer Intervention Program Plus (P.I.P. Plus), is a program in which teachers suspected of incompetence are observed by a peer teacher for up to a year; at the end the peer then submits a report as to if the teacher was incompetent. This program would allow for the peer to help the teacher improve their teaching and keep the teacher before they would be fired. Another solution is to not have tenure anymore, schools would save money because they would not have to pay incompetent teachers and would not spend money to fire them. Tenure is not needed for some teachers to apply, according to; 900 teachers applied for 80 openings knowing there was no tenure (“Teacher Tenure” 1).
More effective ratings of teachers would also help solve the issue of teacher tenure. These ratings should not be based solely on test scores but balanced with observations as well as student surveys. Many teachers receive one of the top two ratings, because the principals know they cannot fire bad tenured teachers anyways. Teachers could also be evaluated by “value-added scores,” with this system teachers add value when a student improves in a year.

In conclusion the best overall best solution is a combination of the solutions suggested above. Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg took over the New York school system and their success in the schools is described in the New Yorker. Klein and Bloomberg have a very aggressive approach to removing bad teaches, they also used P.I.P Plus. In the New Yorker school teacher Brandi Scheiner is quoted, “‘Before Bloomberg and Klein, everyone knew that an incompetent teacher would realize it and leave on their own…There was no need to push anyone out,’” (“The Rubber Room” 1). Bloomberg and Klein’s aggressive tactics to remove teachers have been successful, both graduation rates and test scores have improved since they took over. The principals also play a role in firing of teachers and are therefore responsible in pointing out incompetent teachers and removing them from teaching. An example of a pro-active teacher is Daysi Garcia; she is a principal in Queens and according to Klein a standout principal. Garcia is motivated to remove incompetent teachers and in the New Yorker is quoted after spending 5 days testifying to remove a teacher, “‘when I think about the impact of a teacher like this on the children and how long that lasts, it’s worth it, even if it is hard,’” (“The Rubber Room” 5). Before the education system can improve principals need to step up and remove incompetent teachers. The issue of teacher tenure also needs to be resolved.

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