Monday, October 11, 2010

Should Teachers Have Tenure?

“The following was written by and is posted here with’s permission.” 

Tenure gives teachers job security. But critics say tenure makes it hard to get rid of underperforming teachers. Is it the best way to attract talent to the profession, or something that prevents principals from giving kids their best chance at success? We've got two heavy hitters in the education field weighing in on the pros and cons. Read what they have to say, then join the discussion!  Read the point/counter-point and then vote at the bottom of the article.

Expert opinion
by Geoffrey Canada
Educational Activist and President of Harlem Children's Zone
Harlem, New York

Our nation is in the midst of a crisis in public education and because teachers are critical to the academic success of our children, the profession needs to attract and retain the best and brightest. Teachers need to know that they will not be fired arbitrarily, but the current tenure system in many school systems has gone too far. A system that favors seniority and ignores merit sends a terrible signal to anyone thinking about teaching.

Principals need to be able to evaluate their teachers, using student achievement as a starting point, then make staffing decisions based on the needs of the children, not on the needs of the adults. In poor neighborhoods, many students have unstable home lives, get terrible health care, and face a constant threat of violence – they can’t afford a lousy teacher. So while we need to address all the obstacles to a child’s success, we need to demand more of teachers, pay them accordingly and create a system where they will be judged on their ability to make a difference in the lives of the children sitting in their classrooms.

Expert opinion
by John Wilson
Executive Director of the National Education Association
Washington, D.C.
First I want to commend Mr. Canada for the great work the Harlem Children’s Zone does in addressing the challenges of poverty, which affects one out of five children in our nation today. We owe the same to every poor child and the people who work hard to teach them.

The term “tenure” itself is misleading. NEA worked to establish fair procedures that protect good teachers from personal, political and discriminatory actions by employers, while allowing for the dismissal of incompetent teachers. These protections should be earned through a relevant and rigorous process, and employers can make this process easier by only hiring teachers who are competent, qualified and caring in the first place. It is time to restore the standards for entry into the profession that lawmakers have weakened in recent years, and create teacher education programs that attract high achieving students and prepare them for the 21st Century teaching environment.