Even Teachers Think that Tenure Means Nothing

The Quick and the Ed has a story on some new data on what teachers think about tenure and the prospect of meaningful tenure reform. The basic conclusion is fairly unsurprising: teachers want to keep tenure, but are willing to consider changes to it. 75 percent of teachers would support unions simplifying the process of removing ineffective teachers; most teachers do not think that tenure should function as a shield for bad teachers. These numbers represent a substantial increase from when the survey was given 5 years ago.

I’m glad to see that teachers are growing more receptive to the idea of tenure reform (though it is mildly terrifying that 1 of 4 teachers think that tenure should remain a barrier to taking ineffective teachers out of the classroom). But that wasn’t the only data presented:

And there is some evidence that tenure is becoming a more meaningful signal of teacher effectiveness than it was just a few years ago. In 2007, only 23 percent of teachers said that awarding tenure meant that a teacher “has proven to be very good at what s/he does” as opposed to just a formality; in 2011, the number increased to 28 percent. A small increase, but a significant one that bodes well for fair and effective tenure reform.

I almost spit out my coffee when I read this. In other words, our system is designed to give essentially lifetime employment to teachers, and even the teachers don’t think it is earned. Even if you support the idea of tenure, how can you justify a system that awards it without effective consideration of quality? I understand that there are benefits of having career teachers; stability in the faculty is great for schools and communities. But if we’re using our tax dollars to employ people for their entire working life, it is reckless and irresponsible to not be sure that they are doing their jobs effectively. And if the employees themselves don’t think that’s happening, we have a major problem.

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