Sunday, July 20, 2014
Great Teachers Also Need Tenure Laws To Protect Themseleves From Vindictive Administrators.
The education reformers have redoubled their efforts in trying to eliminate teacher tenure and flush from a victory in California, which I believe will be reversed on appeal, they and their deep pocketed benefactors (the 1%) have filed a similar lawsuit in New York State. The premise of the lawsuit in New York State is that the state teacher tenure laws violate the constitution that requires that every student should have an adequate education. This lawsuit is just another attack by the education reformers on the teaching profession and the teacher unions.
Interestingly, the tenure laws in New York State are more stringent than in California. For example, it takes three full years of satisfactory ratings before tenure can be granted by the Principal. Furthermore, the tenure decision can be extended for another year or two if the Principal and teacher agree to do so. In the last year in NYC only 56% of the teachers received tenure, while the rest were either extended or discontinued. Moreover, the New York State teacher evaluation system will allow for a path for dismissal. Finally, once tenure is achieved, the teacher can still be terminated for misconduct or incompetence but gets "full due process rights" by going through a State 3020-a hearing in front of an approved arbitrator who decides the case.
Until a teacher gets tenure, the Principal can terminate a teacher "at will" and its extremely rare for an untenured teacher to win their appeal when terminated. Chapter Leader Arthur Goldstein wrote about one such case when an untenured teacher went to bat for his students as their IEP's were being violated by the school administration and where not getting the state mandated services they needed.
When I was in the infamous "rubber room", I encountered hundreds of teachers during my stay. The common theme was that most of the teachers were there because of problems with their principals. I'm not saying that the teachers were blameless but in many cases the principals were told how to embellish, pervert, and distort the incidence to make it seem serious, just to get the teacher out of the school. It is only when the teacher goes in front of his or her 3020-a arbitrator can the teacher reasonably expect an impartial hearing. If the DOE had its way, almost 100% of the teachers charged would be terminated, just like that for untenured teachers or teachers who appealed their "unsatisfactory ratings".
If there wasn't tenure would any teacher stick their neck out and advocate for their students, report wrongdoing, or question policies that appear to hurt the academic achievement of the students? Few would. Does one want to go back to the "bad old days" when nepotism, cronyism, and personal likes or dislikes dictated the fate of teachers? I think not. One of my friends who was untenured reported Regents cheating to her administration and her satisfactory observations before the cheating report became unsatisfactory after the report and was discontinued since it appears the administration was in on the cheating (in fact SCI was called and confirmed that cheating took place and had the educator removed). Hopefully, the State Supreme Court will find in her favor and force the DOE to give her job back.
Nobody wants to work in an environment where any accusation by a student or administrator or the failure to take on extra responsibilities could lead to termination without "due process". As it is, there will be a teacher shortage in five years and weakening or eliminating teacher tenure will accelerate the pace of good teachers leaving the profession. Yes, tenure is important if school districts are to attract and retain "great teachers" and do what's best for their students by placing them first.