I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Thursday's tenure hearing before the NJ senate:
The tiny number of tenure cases filed in New Jersey is no secret: only 33 cases against schoolteachers last year, 42 the year before, 35 the year before that. 
Out of more than 100,000 schoolteachers statewide, 110 cases over three years is miniscule.
This seems to be the best argument the 'formers have for ditching tenure: so few teachers lose it. But you have to remember that teachers don't get tenure until their fourth year - and that's just when so many leave the profession:
The proportion of new teachers who leave the profession has hovered around 50 percent for decades, said Barry A. Farber, a professor of education and psychology at Columbia University in New York. [...] 
"We must face the fact that although our current teachers are the most educated and most experienced ever, there are still too many teachers leaving the profession too early, not enough people becoming teachers and not enough diversity in the profession," NEA President Reg Weaver said in a statement. 
Because of the high dropout rate of younger teachers, there will be plenty of job openings for teachers over the next 10 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That was written all the way back in 2006 - those were the days...

The fact is, teaching is a job that is very hard to do when you do it poorly. The kids will make you nuts if you don't have a handle on what you're doing. Almost every teacher will tell you horror stories about hi or her first year, and how crazy you can get while you're still trying to find your way.

This turnover in the first few years creates far less need for tenure hearings.

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement:
The superintendent of Orange schools outlined four cases in his district, one of a teacher who allegedly fought with another teacher and student, used expletives and a racial epithet, and showed other inappropriate conduct in class.
"Over a five-year period, while the employee engaged in the aforementioned, the employee was on a paid suspension for 563 days," said superintendent Ronald Lee. "The tenure charges resulted in [the judge] suspending the employee without pay for 30 days."
No one in their right mind would agree that this guy should be in a classroom. It doesn't speak very well of Mr. Lee that he couldn't bounce the guy (if all of this is true). So, yes, let's streamline the process. But I think we're making way too much of this issue, and it looks like many supervisors agree:
Still, most agreed that the small numbers of tenure charges filed with the state are really only a fraction of the cases of low-performing teachers for whom the formal filing is a last resort, a vast majority of them eased out of the classroom as the complaints mount.
'You don’t see these statistics, but I would say that hundreds of teachers who receive the first tenure charges resign,” said Eugene Liss, general counsel to the Newark Teachers Union. "Maybe the case didn’t go all the way to Trenton, but many who sit with us, they end up leaving the profession."
I would ask why we don't see the statistics. We should be able to track this; of course, maybe we would get some answers the 'formers wouldn't like to hear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for giving some much needed insight into what is one of the most misunderstood concepts. Tenure is nothing more than guarenteed due process; it is NOT a guarentee of a job.
Truthfully, if administrators and school boards were doing their jobs, "bad" teachers would never get tenure in the first place. Seriously, an administrator can't determine in three years whether or not someone is doing his/her job? If an administrator inherits a "bad" teacher, then he or she should immediately begin documenting the issues and the steps taken to remediate them. With proper documentation a tenured teacher can be dismissed. It is a fallacy to believe they cannot be. Yes, it does require effort on the part of the administation, but that's part of what administrators get paid to do. As a teacher with 25 years in the classroom, I would love to see the tenure hearing process streamlined. However, people need to understand that tenure is necessary. I have often had to butt heads with a principal or superintendent in order to advocate for a student. The reality is I cannot effectively advocate for a child if I am worried about losing my job over it. Tenure allows me to continue to do what is right for the children who come through my classroom and not have to worry about choosing between my job and a child's well-being. That being said, I think you will find that most competent teachers will agree that we'd like to see the incompetent ones let go - they do nothing but drag the profession down.