Do students benefit from teacher tenure?

Legislators are considering a proposal to do away with traditional teacher tenure. Instead, teachers would rely for job security on periodic evaluations, based on student test scores and other factors. Today’s Question: Do students benefit from teacher tenure?

  • Wade

    No, Teachers should continue to have a job because they are good. Not because they’ve logged enough hours to achieve tenure. Teachers who are good enough won’t have to worry as they can prove their value.

  • JMM

    Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. There’s a lot things society could do to benefit students. Make sure they all have a good home, a safe community, health care, adequate food and clothing. Parents who have time to read to them, nurture them, and care for them.

  • Julie

    I agree with Wade’s comment. Students don’t benefit from tenure. Tenure protects teachers from being fired, and gives them extra time away from their job, which does not benefit the student.

  • Rich

    Continuing contracts provide an incentive for teachers and districts to invest in human capital. Training, whether in education or in business is expensive. Students benefit from a workforce that shares a vision and has the knowledge and skills to carry out that vision. Without continuing contracts, people are less likely to make the commitments necessary to do the hard work of teaching.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Students benefit from an atmosphere of relational trust among teachers, and between facutly and administration. Students do not benefit from teachers who are vulnerable to the whims of capricious principals, or from grandstanding politicians who cast aspersions on their schools and the people who are helping them grow up to be mature responsible adults.

  • Philip

    Sometimes. It’s like anything in life, some are great teachers and some need to be pushing a button on a machine someplace.

  • J

    When I heard this question, I had to wonder, how many on here will have been a teacher or know a teacher well. And despite the early hour, my suspicions have been confirmed by Wade. No teacher would ever say that. Tenure is important for several reasons:

    1. It protects teachers from the whims of politicians who need to satisfy their base by opposing unions and public schools and the rest. More importantly, it protects the teachers against the politics of the school board.

    2. There is no knowing what students you’ll get from year to year. Or how well the previous year’s teacher did. To put it bluntly, if you have stupid students, there is little one can do to make them get A’s on everything so you can keep your job.

    3. Despite the arguments of those outside the profession, experience does matter.

  • john little

    I used to be a teacher Trust me ..It lowers job

    performance. At least half are not dedicated.

    Get rid of tenure and performance will scream up

  • Tenure is a joke. I graduated about 2 years ago from Stout. The worst teachers to have were the ones that have their tenure. These teachers stop caring because they do not have to anymore. I think student work suffers greatly from tenure.

  • Tony

    The teaching profession is set up differently than private sector jobs, which is why the concept of tenure exists.

    If you’re a regular teacher you have a one-year contract. At the end of that year you’re done. If you want to work another year you have to fill out an application and submit it in the hope that you’ll be selected for an interview. If you make it through the interview, against all the competition, then you can have your job back for another year.

    Most private sector employees don’t have to regularly and consistently re-apply and re-interview against hunderds of other candidates for their same job.

    Tenure is the device by which teachers’ jobs can be as secure as jobs in the private sector. Without it you risk constant turnover and chaos.

  • Katy

    Julie, how does teacher tenure allow for “extra time away from their job”?

  • rmp

    John Little,

    I have this policy that says when somebody tells me ‘trust me’, don’t.

  • Garyf

    Especially in high school, you could really tell the good teachers from the bad.

    It was too bad the good teachers got paid the same as the bad ones.

  • Mary

    Tenure does not protect a teacher from being fired. A teacher can be fired just like any other employee. There is a process to that firing as there is in every job setting. It is time intensive, just ask any manager, to legally terminate someone. So if you want to make sure the poor teachers are dealt with, give administrators time to carryout that aspect of their job. Everyone wants to blame tenure, but tenure can’t protect a bad employee, a lack of documentation in any job setting is what can protect a bad employee.

    This idea of poor teachers is greatly inflated. If you ask parents if they are happy with their child’s teacher, the overwhelming majority say yes. It’s this idea that “my child’s teachers are good, but the other ones I’m not so sure about” that leads to the fallacy that education is full of poor teachers.

  • EAL

    Perhaps a different twist on the issue of educational accountability. Rather than rating teachers, principles and school districts, why not allow the schools to rate the parents for their accountability of educating their children. After all who is accountable for the success of their children.

  • Eric

    In my experience I emphatically say NO! I attended a Twin Cities MNSCU school and took a class from the most scatter-brained, capricious, self-involved, professor anyone could ever imagine. He shamelessly bragged about how he had reached te…nure on the first day of class. After he habitually showed up late, treated students with contempt, and failed to submit paperwork for the class to conduct a research project our cohort filed a complaint with the Dean and Chair of the department. Both of them supported and backed up the professor and I graduated disillusioned and bitter.

  • jj

    Yes! Tenure does help students making sure experienced teachers can teach not be fired by political whims

    Tenure prevents teachers fired by disgruntled parents whose kid got a B-, tenure allows evolution to be taught as science. tenure prevents good teachers being fried because the administration doe not like them speaking up. Tenure prevents good teachers being fired because the 22 year old new grad has a bigger bra size. Tenure makes teachers want to teach in schools with poor students with low test scores. Tenure make sure there are teachers with experience in the worst preforming schools. (Do you pick the surgeon with the least experience because they are cheaper with new ideas?) Tenure makes sure that other teachers get work other than just the drinking buddies of the principal. Tenure makes sure that my tax money is not wasted on every new goofy educational sales pitch. Tenure allows teacher to speak out for what is best for students not just what looks best in the newspaper. You do not have any idea how bad schools will be without tenure. You have no idea how much the older teachers work for what is best for the students. You might as well close any school with underprivileged students because no one there will have more than 3 years experience and have no idea how to work with such a challenging population of students. Sometimes you want people to not treat students as factory products.

  • Kaye Thompson Peters

    Tenure definitely helps students in these ways:

    1. It creates stability of the learning environment.

    2. It ensures that students are exposed to other viewpoints than the prevailing politically correct one.

    3. It protects teachers who are outspoken on behalf of their students or profession.

    Everyone needs a history lesson. Tenure was initiated to ensure that educators had the academic freedom and intellectual integrity to truly educate children and not be subject to the fears or intimidation of their administration. It is essential to the learning environment. It was not about protecting bad teachers.

  • Steve

    i think its a good idea my wife is a teacher and sounds like a fair and equitable way to retain good teachers!

  • Pete

    No, students do not benefit from tenure. Quite the opposite. A long time ago it was necessary but no longer. We are seriously losing ground in educational proficiency. We layoff teachers on a last in first out basis. We don’t need to fire lots of teachers but we should move in a direction of measuring them by achievement–how well are they teaching and how well are the students learning?

  • Gene Janicke

    The tenure discussion is an irrelavant distraction from the real issue of poverty and its related affects. Thus the only consistent finding over decades of research is that the best predictor of students’ success is their zip code.

  • Donavon

    Students do not benefit from their teachers being in a constant state of fear from losing their jobs. There are other ways to ensure that good teachers are rewarded and bad teachers are removed, and eliminating tenure is not one of them.

  • Kris

    After watching many ineffective, tenured teachers get first choice at job assignments in my daughter’s school, and watching extremely motivated, energetic newer teachers get laid-off, I think there has to be a different system. Experience does matter, but job security based on tenure is not the way to go. Likewise, performance based on test scores does not necessarily reflect a teacher’s performance. I think the whole system needs to be examined and re-vamped with teacher and parent input. A bad or mediocre teacher can ruin a subject for a student, and a motivated teacher who loves his/her subject can make a huge difference to his/her students.

  • Steve Borgstrom

    Students do indeed benefit from tenure. Too many times, teacher firing and hiring depends WAY too much on personalities rather than actual job performance. I have been teaching 31 years and have at least tried to become a better teacher EVERY year.

    Beginning teachers have WAY too much to learn to be truly great teachers right away their first year. Sorry folks, but if you don’t agree, you haven’t been in the business and you truly don’t know what you are talking about.

    There are plenty of substandard teachers out there, of ALL ages, but we need better systems and procedures to remove them that take the “personal politics” of liking or disliking the teacher out of the equation.

    Students benefit from having the best teachers, the most engaging teachers and the teachers that most understand learning styles and how to develop a personal rapport with kids that leads to the kids wanting to learn and grow.

    Lets not make it easy to fire the highest paid teachers just to replace them with less expensive, less qualified teachers. Lets develop a mentoring program that gives beginning teachers and their mentors enough time to truly develop talented new teachers to become master teachers…

  • Nick

    Absolutely not. Good teachers are not motivated by tenure. Tenure only serves to protect under performing teachers.

  • Dan

    The question is all wrong. Tenure has nothing to do with teaching or students and everything to do with work rules. Invest in a college education, get hired, pass the probationary period, and get rewarded with a live of poverty, but good job security.

  • Mick

    This question is like asking “Do bank customers benefit from banker bonuses?”

    The two may or may not be correlated, but the fact remains that job security is not something a teacher should have to worry about in addition to 20-30 students, curricula, tests, parents, administrators, watching for abuse and learning disability, and on and on and on. As has been said before, bad teachers can and have been fired, so taking away tenure just solves a phantom problem while scapegoating the person with the hardest job.

  • Laurel

    Tenure is important for students, teachers, and the school because it provides stability. In most schools principals come and go more than teachers do. Tenure doesn’t mean that teachers can’t be fired if they aren’t doing a good job, but it does mean that the reasons for being fired have to be fair and documented. Tenure does mean that teachers can’t be fired just because they don’t get along with the administration.

    In my experience: old teachers are good teachers: of the many teachers my children have had, most of the best teachers were ones with 15+ years of experience teaching. New teachers are still learning: I have had children whose teachers were first year teachers at least 4 times. None of the first year teachers were as good as any of the 15+ year teachers. Some young teachers are great: one of the very best teachers my children have had was a third year teacher–sadly she was new to the school (no tenure) and had a personality conflict with the principal, so my next child didn’t get to have that same teacher. All teachers have strengths and weaknesses, and different teachers connect with different kids: one of the teachers that was fabulously good for one of my kids is the same teacher that my neighbor’s kid finds confusing and hard to learn from. Another teacher that was everyone elses favorite just didn’t connect with another of my children.

    FILO is the only sensible thing to do when you’re conducting lay-offs. Those older teachers have skills and knowledge you can’t replace easily, and you need to keep the good will of the teaching community or the best and the brightest will start looking for greener pastures (that’s what happens in other industries). Teachers can and should be fired if they are not effective and are not improving significantly, but the process needs to be thoughtful and fair. That’s what happens within a tenure system, and that’s the sort of protection our children and our schools need.

  • Shane

    Give me one good reason teachers should have tenure other than it’s some goofy union gimmick. Teachers should have to succeed or fail on the quality of their work, just like everybody else.

  • TIM

    Tenure was origionally a way to buffer academics from political or financial pressure to channel their efforts in or away from specific areas. Although it still offers that advantage, it has developed into a valuable tool to buffer academics from their performance. It is pro-teacher and is detrimental to students to the extent that it decreases teacher accountability. Outside reinforcement of performance (ie. if a sales person does not provide excellent service to a client, that client will not utilize the sales person) is necessary to give good teachers the positive reinforcement to go the extra mile for 20+ years, and to give negative reinforcement to those who don’t perform excellent service. Tenure is an unecessary artificial tool.

  • Monica

    Tenure is a way for teachers to get due process not a way to protect bad teachers. This is a big misinformation campaign and a way to get rid of older and more expensive people. Tenure is a great thing for students and teachers.

  • DJ Leary

    Tenure will help some students who really need it, like Michelle Bachman. She is planning a trip to Israel because she has always wanted to see the Taj Mahal.

  • Kevin VC

    Yes, the simple answer.

    Time on the job means you have seen the ins and outs of the work before you. You also grow to know who students act and behave more and you also learn what works and does not.

    The problem with this situation is common with anyone with tenure or protected status on any job. Complacency. Sometimes stemming from not being allowed to do what might work better, told not to rock the boat. Or you have done it so long you just are bored.

    Either way you need stability in the job to keep or even, god forbid, encourage teachers to take up the job. You can not pay below the cost of living, and that includes all the college training required and needed to get the job or even excel at the job.

    I am surprised there has not been a merging of the ideas rather then throwing out one and jumping completely to the other….

    Base line needs to be pay what it costs to get where you are. Bonus and incrementals based off 2 things: time and the other performance.

    Also rather then just telling teachers you ‘failed’ or are not as good as so and so… Allow them the tools to colaborate and crossconnect the ideas, to see what the others are doing and the reasoning behind it if the other good teachers can or are willing to provide.

    Also open books on funding and its reporting helps. Its been said better funded schools do better, and the data shows that. It helps to see all the details why. To take what works and learn from it, pass on the ideas of learning better ways to teach is just logical.

  • Matt

    The downside of teacher tenure is nothing compared to the downside of test-score-based education. The educational community knows that the only useful way to measure teacher performance is through peer review.

  • Keith

    Students do benefit, because it forces administrators and parents to take more responsibility for their roll in educating students. The question should not be “do students benefit,” but rather “is there a better way to achieve the same benefits?” I would say that there is, but am highly skeptical of basing it on test scores.

  • Doug

    Yes. What is good for teachers is good for students. But MPR, you ask the wrong question. Some, like those opposing continuing contract law, have no idea what tenure means. By asking the question, one assumes that tenure exists. It does not. We have continuing contract law and a process for fair treatment in the workplace. Read the statue to see for yourself.

    When bad teaching occurs ( and it rearely does in MN, it is becuase an administrator (also protected by the same contract law) has failed to do their job in properly evaluating a teacher. Treat a teacher fairly and they will produce an clime of optimism, open mindedness, and critical thinking in their classroom. Removing due process only harms the work relationship between the employee and employer. Employers do not exist to protect the rights of teachers, but their reputation in the community and they will stop at nothing to protect themselves, including removal of good teachers under false and inaccurate allegations. I’ve seen too many examples in recent years to believe anything else.

  • Joshua Ashton

    Fortunately, we have a model for educational outcomes, use of taxpayer dollars, and teacher retention: charter schools. Charter schools use at-will contracts for all their employees in addition to a non-profit board for governance.

    Taken as a whole, charter school educational outcomes are, at best, mixed and tend to mirror the results in traditional public schools. In addition, charter schools struggle with teacher retention, tend to promote segregation, and drain some of the most able students from their resident schools .

    If the goal is to improve educational results, the super-untenured- teacher probably won’t save the world if charter schools are an accurate model. No single variable, in the absence of everyone working harder and longer, will deliver significant outcomes without shorter summers and more time in school. Politically, that might be a dangerous statement for taxes, teachers, familiies, and students.

  • Elaine

    I’m commenting as a retired teacher. First, the way the system is set up, a teacher’s pension depends upon a teaching career that spans at least 30 years and is based on the high five years. Since teachers get incremental pay increases for each year of experience, the high five are the last five years of service.

    If we do away with the current tenure system, it would allow school districts to get rid of teachers at the high end of the pay scale for no other reason than to cut costs.

    I was able to retire at age 56 under the Rule of 90. That rule is based upon age and years of service adding up to the number 90. It allows teachers to retire early–instead of going to social security age of 62. This allows room for younger teachers to get jobs.

    I will have to say that teacher burnout is common after 30 years of service. During my teaching career, societal problems increased to the extent that at least 1/3 of the students in any class are labeled: ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum, EBD, LD, or need extra services of some kind. In addition, there are increasing numbers of students with health problems such as asthma, allergies, and diabetes, and there are increasing numbers of home situations that include alcohol and drugs, and there are family concerns that distract students from learning. If teachers burn out or lose the incentive to teach, it’s because we are overwhelmed.

    I believe there are many problems in our educational system, and in our society, that need to be addressed and many changes are needed within our educational system. For the past decade we have been locked into teaching for the test while moral values within our society are crumbling.

    I don’t believe that removing teaching tenure is the answer to our problems. It will only increase insecurity for teachers who are struggling to survive in a field that was originally chosen as a service career. I believe a person can’t surivive the first five years of teaching without having a commitment and desire to work with kids.

    The people who complain most about teachers are most often the same people who wouldn’t survive more than 5 minutes in today’s classrooms.

    It seems that public workers have become scapegoats within today’s political structure. The solutions to society’s problems are going to require many changes. I hope those changes will be based on common sense.

  • Neil

    My understanding of the current law is:

    – new teachers are on probation their 1st 3 years and their 1st year in a new district

    – after the probationary period, they have tenure

    – tenured teachers may be removed for Inefficiency; Neglect of duty, or persistent violation of school laws, rules, regulations, or directives; Conduct unbecoming a teacher which materially impairs the teacher’s educational effectiveness; Other good and sufficient grounds rendering the teacher unfit to perform the teacher’s duties.

    – in the event of layoffs due to downsizing, teachers go out the door last in, first out.

    It is fair to assume that the best teachers are the reasonably experienced teachers with excellent skills and attitudes.

    It is fair to assume that some untenured teachers will develop to be better than some currently tenured teachers.

    My belief is that tenure doesn’t really help or hurt our students as much as people would imagine with the exception that even under-performing tenured teachers are too immune from downsizing.

    In the case of downsizing, let’s drop the LIFO policy and keep our best teachers.

  • Al Heebsh

    It seems clear that in some cases yes, students are helped by tenure. In other cases the students are done a disservice.

    I have been a teacher. I have known teachers who should have been let go but couldn’t be. I have also known good teachers who were unfairly criticized by incompentant administrators. This applies to employment outside education as well. I could say the same about people I have known in the work world outside of teaching.

    Looking in total, were more good teachers saved from termination than bad ones prevented from termination? I think it is hard to say.

  • Sara

    Yes and No. Those amazing teachers who love their subject or teaching so much that tenure makes no difference to them will still be there if tenure goes away. We would all be better off without the teachers who are burned out, lost interest along the way, or who were simply never that good, and who revert to “vacation mode” as soon as they reach tenure. Keep in mind that there are “slackers” in every occupation, so changing tenure rules will not necessary remove every “bad” teacher or “bad” educational experience.

  • Phil

    Yes, but a teacher’s continued employment should be based BOTH on their experience and periodic evaluation of their effectiveness and competency.

  • kevin

    I love all of these comments about tenure not making a difference. Just how many bad teachers have ever been fired (yes, it CAN be done, however the system is so difficult because of union protection that it is almost never done. There are plenty of teachers that get burned out, but know that they make most of their money in the last few years as a teacher. That is a broken system and it is finally starting to show in this country.

  • Allan

    Yes. My whole life I have worked in the private sector. I approached it with a positive attitude thinking that hard work would be recognized and rewarded. After a few years and multiple employers I came to the realization that more than that was required. Politics and smoozing took you much further. Efforts are spent making sure you are liked by the boss, by your fellow employees, negotiations for work load and pay.

    But my kids are teachers and I get to see them bring home work, papers to grade, lessons to plan, buying supplies on their own dime. And why? They are concerned about their students. Their efforts are put into making sure their kids are doing as well as possible, sometimes even without parrental support. Now take away tenure and imagine teachers spending their time putting in a good face to the administration, school board, or their fellow teachers. After all, you don’t need back stabbers around when budget cuts mean the school may lose a couple of teachers. The time spent doing the above means less effort on the kids. Get administrators in there that can really administer (and they do get paid well enough to do it) and have them coach poor teachers to make improvements.

  • Richard

    I am sure that in some cases tenure makes it more difficult to fire poor teachers, but it is still possible to remove such teachers. I think tenure is a very minor aspect of the problems facing our education system. In fact, the entire debate over education tends to ignore what I believe are the most important issues.

    My wife teaches in a very tough, low income school. The school consistently makes incremental improvements in test scores, and the teachers work very hard. I know my wife works more than 60 hours a week and pumps a lot of our family income into things she buys for her students. But as she points out, at any one time, as many as one quarter of her 2nd grade students are homeless. Many of them have parents who are working low wage jobs, family members who are in prison or on probation, have poor credit ratings that make it impossible to find housing, and a large amount of dysfunction in their lives in general. The failure of education is a societal failure, not a result of teacher tenure. As long as we tolerate a social and economic system that lets large numbers of our poorest kids go homeless and grow up in poverty, no adjustment to teacher tenure will make any difference.

  • Jamie

    Tenure doesn’t have much to do with students, except, as some have mentioned, continuity and consistency and the benefits of presumed greater experience and skill. My understanding is that tenure is mostly about protecting teachers from the whims of bad principals, the politics of school boards, and the uninformed rages of people like tea-baggers.

    If Neil’s list is correct (“… tenured teachers may be removed for Inefficiency; Neglect of duty, or persistent violation of school laws, rules, regulations, or directives; Conduct unbecoming a teacher which materially impairs the teacher’s educational effectiveness; Other good and sufficient grounds rendering the teacher unfit to perform the teacher’s duties…”), then there’s no reason to worry about tenure.

    This reminds me of how people think that becasue other public sector workers are in unions they have jobs for life whether or not they’re good workers. That is absolutely FALSE. Like teachers, they have to meet clearly defined expectations and goals, and if they don’t, they can be terminated just as any non-union private sector employee would be. As union members, though, they’re less subject to the whims or vindictiveness of bad managers.

  • Mary Alice

    I worked for 17 years as a school psychologist in a large metropolitan school system. Faculty members routinely ate lunch is a cozy faculty lounge every day, This provided me a unique opportunity to observe a lot of teachers under a variety of situations. I was struck with the change in focus and atmosphere in years when personnel cuts were expected. In most years, the conversation would include talk of curriculum, faculty development, individual (unnamed) student guidance, school activities plus outside school events. In financially stressed years, uncertainty and anxiety reared their ugly heads, The atmosphere was strained and downbeat. The focus on growth and development definitely faltered. Planning ahead as a group faded markedly. To summarize, typical enthusiasm for the job definitely waned.

    I was always pained to see this and felt it had to be affecting students’ progress that year.

  • Tom hagen

    I am a retired educator. I taught for thirty years in 4 school systems. Parents and students both recognized me as an excellent teacher and I am still in contact with many of them. Without tenure I would have been fired in nearly every system I taught in. In one school, a conservative administrator tried to dismiss me for teaching about China in a world history class. (1976…they were communists you know) In another system I challenged administration for their misuse of the scheduling process that left many bright students with no electives to engage their intellectual capacities.

    I rarely see any scrutiny of administration in the discussion of educational excellence. Without tenure an incompetent or vindictive administrator has free reign and variant points of view are stifled. Every contract has language to dismiss the truly ineffective, abusive or incompetent teacher. Removing tenure threatens classroom and professional academic freedom.

  • A F

    Why do teachers have tenure in the first place? Why is their profession sacrosanct over any other “job”. Nurse’s don’t, neither do truck drivers or even pro athletes. To previous posts by teachers: Hey look since when are YOU supposed to be immune from supervisor bias? Ask how many other people, (like me for one), in the real world who have been falsely accused? Employer bias is everywhere, even in schrools. It’s the nature of the beast. To the psychologist: Well you are the psychologist, what do you expect? Are teachers so elevated to some kind of sainthood that they don’t have to worry about layoffs, pay reductions or job cuts. Go into any company lunchroom where the pall of layoff hangs in the air, you will observe the same atmosphere among the, (some soon to be former), employees.

    Tenure has no, repeat NO effect on student achievement. Rather, poverty is the number one factor in the decline of student achievement. Also are fatherless households, abusive parents, alcoholism, homelessness and most importantly, Godlessness.

  • suestuben

    This question, like so many we spend too much time discussing, is a defection of the issue. The issue is why are we spending so much money to graduate so many undereducated students. The question asks us to target teachers and teacher issues as being at fault for poor student performance.

    We love to be able to blame someone for a difficult problem, but that rarely fixes the problem and only serves to frustrate us so we look more closely for someone to blame. Our educational system is broken and needs to be torn down and reconstructed on a model that seems to work well somewhere else in the world. There are plenty of countries who spend 1/3 or 1/4 of what we do and their students are years ahead of our children. We seem to think that our system is the best (because America is #1 (?)) and therefore if we just rearrange the chairs and the personnel, then the outcome will become #1 in the world. Our egoism is a major problem because it prevents us from learning from others.

    So let’s ask the true question and we’ll stop spending too much money and begin seeing our children become the educated young people we all know they can be. But I’m pretty sure that will not happen so parents must educate themselves and take responsibility to ensure their children become the best students possible. It can be done; I did it and so can you.

  • Jessica Giese

    I attended junior high and high school in the Anoka-Hennepin District. There were a few great teachers, but some teachers were openly racist, misogynistic, or homophobic. Complaints to the administration yielded zero results; these people were tenured. I am in favor of rewarding our excellent teachers, ad I think most teachers are doing excellent work; but there has to be a way to flush out perverts from our schools. Teachers who prey on children should not be working in academia.

  • Robert W. Seidel

    Perhaps it would be useful to compare our educational system with those in totalitarian countries where teachers are made to indoctrinate their students. In those countries, any divergence of views from the official line results in dismissal. When Republicans attack tenure, besides as a means of attacking unions and collective bargaining wo which they have always been opposed, they are also usually critical of the perceived liberal bias of academia. Like the perceived conservative bias of private enterprise, this is a political issue. If underpaid teachers are somehow responsible for the lack of interest of children in school training, then the commercial sources of information overload, the lack of child-care for working families, the prevalence of drugs and video-games in school cultures can all be disregarded and we can hire fresh-faced adolescents to make us more competitive with the rest of the world, where the profession of teaching is respected. I am tired of anti-intellectualism in America, and I suggest that Richard Hofstadter might be used by those who seek to understand the undying hostility of conservative amercia to any ideas that they didn’t get out of Ronald Reagan and the King James Bible.

  • Brian D

    I have spent most of my adult life working as a graduate student TA, a faculty member, or a university administrator, and since my retirement I’ve been working as an adjunct faculty member at a local college. University and college faculty try to open the minds of students to the world, and that can be very threatening for some parents and some politicians. I remember one instance, when I was a high school student, when a Minnesota Republican legislator tried to get one of the most distinguished members of the Department of Political Science at the U of M fired for teaching a course on communism. The faculty member simply felt, given the era, that if we were going to divide the world into communist and anti-communist, it would be good for students to know what communism is. (What a thought!) Happily the Republican legislator did not succeed. I have no doubt that teachers at the K-12 level and university and college faculty would routinely face the threat of losing their jobs any time they taught something that made people in positions of power uncomfortable. There is always someone who exploits tenure (there’s always someone who exploits virtually every system), but the benefits to students and to society of tenure systems in education far outweigh any possible harm.

  • Scott

    Students do benefit from a well designed system of tenure.

    Strong schools need to be able to attract and retain good people. Job security is something that schools can offer. Tenure benefits good teachers and by extension it benefits students.

    Do some poor teachers benefit from tenure as it’s applied now? Yes, but this means schools just need to do better with hiring practices and refine the system that is in place.

    We certainly don’t pay teachers fair wages so they deserve what benefits they do get, including tenure. I support tenure, I also support better hiring practices and higher standards for teaches in our schools. These things can easily coexist.

  • Jay

    Tenure only benefits older innefictive teachers and the teachers’ unions. It does nothing to benefit students. Effective older teachers would be retained in any event. Tenure has no place in K-12 education. We need to start rewarding those who perform (as does every private sector employer) instead of those who dust off the same old lesson plans year after year.

  • Sue de Nim

    I was a fairly good student. I liked most of my teachers. Some of my classmates who didn’t achieve as highly as I did liked to blame “bad teachers” for their not-so-great grades. They were the same teachers I had. I certainly benefited from having teachers who weren’t worried about losing their jobs over what some vindictive under-achiever (or such a one’s parents) might say to the administration or school board.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Remember the movie, Dead Poets Society? The prevention of such outcomes is what tenure is for.

  • jnathan

    We need regular, mandated assessments of all professionals in education – early childhood through “higher” education. Tenure is a form of due process – but if there is not an expectation that there will be regular l(perhaps every 3 years) assessments for all faculty, some people start to slide. I’ve been an inner city k-12 public school teacher and taught at several colleges and universities. Regular assessment is vital for everyone.

  • I don’t think students particularly benefit from tenure. I can say that I didn’t benefit from having professors with tenure. They weren’t any better than my professors who didn’t have it.

    I definitely agree that there should be periodic evaluations of teachers based on student test scores and other factors.