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There is no “Tenure”

August 19, 2014

Frank Bruni’s column, “The Trouble with Tenure” is based on a false premise. Namely, he continues the canard that teachers have “tenure” and that “tenure” is a bad thing. Having read the comments in the “NYTimes’ Picks”  section it is clear that many readers eloquently explained why “tenure” is needed: school boards, administrators, and the public CAN be unfair. Because no one in that group addressed the misuse of the term “tenure”, I offered the following comment:

Teachers do not have “tenure” and an experienced teacher can be dismissed. Teachers are afforded DUE PROCESS after receiving a CONTINUING CONTRACT following a PROBATIONARY PERIOD. The “due process” can be a complex procedure dictated by pages of detailed language that teachers’ unions negotiated or it might be a short description of how a hearing would be held before a school board or impartial labor board. The protections provided by the “continuing contract” are either defined by state law or state or local board policy. The length of the “probation” for teachers is either defined by law or negotiated by teachers and the school board. If a teacher is performing poorly, the administration is required to document the poor performance in accordance with the rules outlined above. Having worked as a school administrator for 35 years I know it can be done. I also know protections for teachers are needed for all reasons cited in other comments. Finally, having worked as an administrator for 35 years it rankles me to see “tenure” being used incorrectly as a way to avoid addressing the effects of poverty and to avoid the truth about public education: the VAST majority of teachers work hard for too little money and deserve the public’s wholehearted support.

In my 35 years as an administrator I spent more time working with underachieving teachers and administrators than I spent more time dealing with poor performing teachers than I spent celebrating the hard work of the many high performing teachers. I could fill MANY blog posts with anecdotes that would explain why teachers need the protections they are afforded with a continuing contract. Like so many of the “solutions” the school reform movement comes up with, “eliminating tenure” is fast, cheap, and easy. Any “solution” that doesn’t include those three ingredients is snake oil.

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