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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Failure of "Reform": Tenure

Tom Moran at the Star-Ledger wants to have a "friendly conversation" about ed reform. So I'm posting some short pieces about the topic there, and I'm waiting for him to respond. Here's a repost of the first one:
The central issue in the upcoming education "reform" debate will certainly be tenure.

Under the Christie proposal, if a teacher gets one "ineffective" rating, she loses her tenure rights, and can't appeal the loss to anyone outside of her district. She can then be terminated immediately without cause.

50% of that "ineffective" rating is based solely on the teacher's evaluation by the principal or other supervisor - more than enough to cause even a stellar teacher to earn a poor rating if she rubs her supervisor the wrong way. In effect, administrators would have new, unprecedented abilities to remove a teacher at will.

This is a recipe for disaster.

Even more than teacher protection, tenure is taxpayer protection. It creates a firewall that helps to contain cronyism. The reports from the Star-Ledger about the rampant corruption and nepotism alleged in the Elizabeth school district should be more than enough proof for anyone that this firewall is essential, especially in a state with a reputation for political shenanigans like New Jersey.

Removing a teacher's right to appeal to an authority outside of his district will inevitably cause some districts to head the way of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Schools will become patronage mills, ripe for abuse. Considering that research shows granting tenure has no effect on student achievement, why would we take this risk?

Yes, there is a very good case to be made that it is too difficult, costly, and time-consuming to bring a tenure case against an ineffective teacher. But the answer is simple: cap the process. Limit it to 90 days, including appeals. Assign dedicated adjudicators to hear the cases, and prosecute them quickly and fairly.

But any attempt to remove a tenured teacher's right to an impartial hearing before dismissal will turn New Jersey's school districts into 603 separate Tammany Halls.

Our students deserve better than that.


Anonymous said...

Hi JM,

I must admit, I am totally confused about the whole issue of defending tenure. I constantly hear that is a protection against "bias" against a teacher by administrators -- as you said above "rubbing the wrong way". But hasn't the bar been raised on adminstrators to produce results? What adminstrator is going to fire a high performing teacher who is producing the results that will keep the administrator in their job? The whole rest of the world has jobs that entail working with everyone happily, impressing their boss, being part of a positive environment...why should that be different with teachers? Thanks Ted

Anonymous said...

This is all about union busting. How dare teachers have a union when most of the private sector is de-unionized. How dare teachers have tenure when most of the private sector has no tenure. How dare teachers have a pension when most of the private sector has no pensions. Geez, I get the pattern. Just turn teachers into obsequious powerless serfs who will have to bow down and kiss the feet of their principal, just like the private sector. The principal is the teacher's immediate boss but he doesn't own the school or the school district. This is not about improving the schools, this is about pure union busting. It's about an anti-union, anti-public school ideology of guys like Christie and his buddies the Koch brothers.