Teacher Tenure

Who benefits from teacher tenure? Does tenure ensure that the best, brightest, and most motivated teachers are instructing students? Clearly, many state education departments find problems with it, as they attempt to improve or eliminate the existing structure. An article in Education Week states, “A handful of states have begun to overhaul their tenure-granting processes by increasing the number of years it takes teachers to win due process rights, and by trying to improve the evaluations that are supposed to guide determinations of whether a teacher qualifies for the benchmark.”
Take Connecticut as one example of current tenure law. Teachers qualify for tenure after 40 school months (roughly 4 years). Once granted, teachers can be dismissed after due process hearings for only the following reasons:
1. Inefficiency or incompetence based on evaluations that comply with State
Board of Education guidelines for evaluations;
2. Insubordination against reasonable board of education rules;
3. Moral misconduct;
4. Disability proven by medical evidence;
5. elimination of the position to which he was appointed or loss of a position another teacher, as long as there is no other position for which the teacher is qualified and subject to the applicable provisions of a collective bargaining agreement or school board policy; or
6. Other due and sufficient cause. (Connecticut Tenure Law)

The criteria are somewhat vague at best. As someone who has served as both an assistant principal and principal in Connecticut public schools, I can attest to the difficulty in dismissing incompetent tenured teachers. The process is not only extremely time consuming but also expensive. In the meantime, students suffer, sometimes losing a critical year of education. That situation is inexcusable.

The Education Week article reports, “The mechanisms through which the states are approaching changes to their tenure policies differ. They range from a law enacted in Ohio last year delaying tenure-granting until a teacher has served for seven year to a regulatory overhaul in Delaware, completed in January that more closely ties tenure to a teacher’s effect on student achievement.” Change is welcome!

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