Should Teachers be Tenured?

Tenure. Such a small word with so many misconceptions and hopes attached to it. Naysayers demand that tenure be removed because it only protects 'bad' teachers. Supporters insist that tenure protects 'good' teachers. Who is right?

Tenure doesn't protect bad teachers.  'Bad' teachers can be terminated even if they are tenured.  BUT, administrators have to be doing their job. This means that they need to be observing, documenting, and meeting with the teacher.  Administrators must put the teacher on a personal improvement plan and then document progress or lack of progress. Lack of progress results in termination. Everything is documented. The teacher has had opportunities to respond. The teacher is also given the opportunity to have a hearing.  So, in my opinion tenure doesn't protect 'bad' teachers. Tenure does not grant teachers the right to teach as they want. It is not a protection that allows teachers to rule their own world. The only thing that protects 'bad' teachers are 'bad' administrators.

Tenure does protect 'good' teachers to the extent that it can help to make the termination process fair and calls for documentation. A tenured teacher cannot be terminated without due cause, documentation, and a procedure giving the teacher an opportunity to correct the problem. Termination also involves a hearing where witnesses may defend the teacher. In a hearing, attorneys from both sides will present their information to the BOE and a decision is made.  On a personal note,  I was asked to participate in a hearing for a colleague.  I felt that the teacher's attorney was far less prepared than she should have been. There had been a last minute 'attorney switch' and the one that the teacher's union had sent was not prepared for the argument. I did feel that this was a disservice to the teacher, who consequently lost the hearing.  Witnesses provided ample proof that the charges were false, but the opposing attorney was far more prepared and masterful in her presentation. In this case, a 'good' teacher lost, and, as a result, so did many students who will never have the privilege of being taught by this master teacher. Unfortunately, this unfair situation is not rare. Administrators with a personal agenda can 'lawyer-up' a notch or two at the district's expense and 'out-lawyer' the teacher.

Tenure helps to protect teachers, good and bad, from being targeted. And, let's face it, we've all worn the bull's eye at one time or another whether we deserved to wear it or not.  We've either angered an influential parent or held a position coveted by an administrator's friend or family member.  Maybe we just rub our administrator the wrong way.  Whatever the situation, without tenure, our jobs would be toast before we could even say a word in our own defense. Tenure does allow teachers to have a voice and an opportunity to defend themselves. Tenure helps to keep the attention focused on our professional skills.

Tenure is a status that teachers earn. Tenure is not automatically granted. It is a BOE approved status ONLY  after the evaluations and recommendation of the administrator are presented.  Tenure is not something that suddenly shows up on your contract after you have taught for a specified number of years. Tenure does not guarantee job protection in every situation.  Tenure does provide some job security. Tenure is a process that allows a teacher to take a more active role in their employment and give them more of a voice in the termination process. Not all terminations proceedings end up like my friend's situation. Some proceedings rule in favor of the teacher and employment continues.
Tenure provides guidelines for everyone to follow to ensure that teachers and districts are providing children with the best possible education.

* This information is based on the state that I live in and the BOE policies that I am familiar with. Your state or district may vary.*

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