Archives for category: Teacher Tenure

Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation writes a cogent article in The American Educator in defense of tenure. Most people mistakenly think that tenure means a job for life. That may be true in high education (where only a minority of professors have tenure or tenure-track positions), but it is not true in K-12 education. Tenure for teachers means due process, the right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge or arbitrator. Kahlenberg provides a valuable history of tenure in American schools and why it matters. He notes that conservatives have always opposed tenure because it constrains management’s ability to fire at will, without cause. But what is most troubling in the present moment is that people with liberal credentials have jumped on the anti-tenure cause, beguiled by the false idea that students of color will get better teachers if their current teachers could be easily fired.

 

He writes:

 

 

 

Teacher tenure rights, first established more than a century ago, are under unprecedented attack. Tenure—which was enacted to protect students’ education and those who provide it—is under assault from coast to coast, in state legislatures, in state courtrooms, and in the media.In June 2014, in the case of Vergara v. California, a state court judge struck down teacher tenure and seniority laws as a violation of the state’s constitution.* Former CNN and NBC journalist Campbell Brown has championed a copycat case, Wright v. New York, challenging the Empire State’s tenure law (which was consolidated with another New York case challenging tenure, Davids v. New York). Similar cases are reportedly in the works in several other states.

 

Meanwhile, with incentives from the federal Race to the Top program, 18 states have recently weakened tenure laws, and Florida and North Carolina sought to eliminate tenure entirely. According to the Education Commission of the States, in order to give greater weight to so-called performance metrics, 10 states prohibited using tenure or seniority as a primary factor in layoff decisions in 2014, up from five in 2012.

 

Leading media outlets have joined in the drumbeat against tenure. A 2010 Newsweek cover story suggested that “the key to saving American education” is: “We must fire bad teachers.” In 2014, the cover of Time magazine showed a judge’s mallet crushing an apple. The headline, referencing the Vergara case, read, “Rotten Apples: It’s Nearly Impossible to Fire a Bad Teacher; Some Tech Millionaires May Have Found a Way to Change That….”

 

Tenure was designed to prevent patronage hiring and nepotism, as well as to protect teachers for politically motivated firings and defend academic freedom.

 

Kahlenberg offers many examples and adds:

 

The argument for tenure—and the requirement of “just cause” firing—is especially compelling in the case of educators. Teachers feel enormous pressure from parents, principals, and school board members to take actions that may not be in the best interests of students. Teacher and blogger Peter Greene notes that because teachers “answer to a hundred different bosses,” they “need their own special set of protections.” Because all adults, from parents to school board members, have themselves attended school, they feel qualified to weigh in on how educators should teach, while they would never tell a surgeon or an auto mechanic what to do. Richard Casagrande, a lawyer for the New York State United Teachers, made a profound point when he said during recent litigation that tenure laws are “not a gift to teachers. These laws empower teachers to teach well.”

 

To begin with, teachers need tenure to stand up to outsiders who would instruct them on how to teach politically sensitive topics. A science teacher in a fundamentalist community who wants to teach evolution, not pseudoscientific creationism or intelligent design, needs tenure protection. So does a sex-ed teacher who doesn’t want to be fired for giving students practical information about how to avoid getting HIV. So does an English teacher who wants to assign a controversial and thought-provoking novel.

 

These concerns are hardly theoretical. In 2005, the Kansas Board of Education adopted science standards that challenged mainstream evolutionary theory and was cheered by proponents of intelligent design.44 (The standard was later repealed.) In 2010, conservatives on the Texas Board of Education proposed renaming the slave trade the “Atlantic triangular trade,” an effort that was later dropped. And in 2012, the Utah legislature passed (and the governor vetoed) a bill to ban instruction on homosexuality and contraception.

 

Arm yourself with a thoughtful discussion of the history and politics of tenure for teachers. This is a good place to start.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2015/kahlenberg#sthash.aaKYcjIJ.dpuf

A few minutes ago, I posted a blog that appeared on the website of The Chronicle of Higher Education, stating that the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin was trying to save tenure from the onslaught of Governor Scott Walker and his allies in the Legislature.

I quickly heard from Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at UW, who warned me not to believe it:

“Thanks so much for posting the blog tonight. However, it is incorrect. The UW Regents aren’t trying to save tenure- that’s not what they voted to do. This is a Board full of Scott Walker’s appointees and what they did was vote to adopt a fake version of tenure that is called the same thing but still allows for massive layoffs. It is a carefully worded trick and the media fell for it.

“More here:

https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2015/06/08/wisconsin-board-adopts-tenure-rules-dont-satisfy-professors

“Please help your readers remember that the Regents, the President of UW System, and yes even the Chancellor of Madison are approved by Walker. None are to be trusted, unfortunately. And all are frantically spinning the story to suggest faculty, staff and students are overreacting.

“Thanks

“Sara”

Note: I have been warned that this account is wrong; that the Board of Regents was appointed by Scott Walker; and that their action is meant to provide fake tenure that allows massive layoffs. See the post that follows this one. Where Scott Walker is involved, nothing good happens to education at any level.

With the legislature in Wisconsin about to pass a budget bill eliminating tenure, the Board of Regents of the University are trying to protect it.

Tenure is the best safeguard for academic freedom. The freedom to teach and to learn requires safety from political reprisals. Without tenure, professors could be fired for teaching controversial subjects or expressing an unpopular opinion or because they offended a powerful politician.

“The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents voted unanimously on Friday to add tenure protections to system policy as the state’s Republican-led government appeared ready to remove them from state law, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

“Proposed legislation, crafted by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance as part of the state budget, would strip shared-governance guarantees and tenure protections from state law. It is expected to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.”

We are rapidly moving backwards, and politicians like Scott Walker are doing their best to cripple free thought.

Scott Walker made his reputation busting unions and attacking K-12 teachers. It was only a matter of time until he turned his guns on higher education. Not only has he slashed the funding of the University of Wisconsin, but now he is going after tenure. He long ago signaled his belief that universities exist for workforce training, not to develop independent-minded citizens or creative thinkers.

If you are opposed to Scott Walker’s assault on intellectual freedom, sign this petition.

This email just arrived:

Diane,

Please help get the word out–

Tenure is literally dying as we speak. Last Friday the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee passed an Omnibus Bill that creates Act 10 for Higher Education

This motion (http://budget.wisc.edu/content/uploads/2015/05/UW_omnibus_motion.pdf ) makes it possible for the University of Wisconsin administration to layoff off faculty or academic staff not only because of financial exigency but also “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, instead of when a financial emergency exists as under current law” (Omnibus Motion #521.39)

While the Chancellor of Madison and the President of UW System both claim that the Regents can still “uphold tenure” despite this, it simply is not true. If this is passed into law— and it looks like it will be by month’s end— no Regent policy can override it.

The Regents of UW System have declined—tonight— to do anything about this. Instead they issued a carefully worded statement that still allows tenured faculty and academic staff to be laid off for non financial reasons. For more on this point see: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7f2ehslx8626nh9/Statement%20by%20David%20J%20Vanness%20Re%20Board%20of%20Regents%20Tenure%20Proposal%2020150603%20-%20Final.docx?dl=0

For more in general see:
http://www.jsonline.com/news/national-focus-on-uw-sharpening-over-tenure-governance-b99511901z1-306017731.html

We need national attention to this important issue. The national press are not here. Not even Chancellor Blank is here. Tomorrow the Regents meet and they do not appear willing to challenge the Wisconsin Legislature at all.

Scott Walker is leading the charge to end faculty tenure— in Wisconsin, and in the United States. He must be stopped.

Thanks–
Sara

********************************************
Sara Goldrick-Rab
Professor of Educational Policy Studies & Sociology
Founding Director, Wisconsin HOPE Lab
University of Wisconsin-Madison
239 Education Bldg
1000 Bascom Mall
Madison WI 53706
(608) 265-2141
srab@education.wisc.edu
http://www.wihopelab.com

The North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned a law passed in 2013 that was intended to eliminate tenure. The court said the law was unconstitutional.

Sharon McCloskey of the Progressive Pulse in North Carolina writes:

The General Assembly’s 2013 repeal of the teacher tenure law amounted to an unconstitutional taking of contract and property rights as to those teachers who’d already attained that status, according to a Court of Appeals opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Linda Stephens said:

[W]e cannot escape the conclusion that for the last four decades, the career status protections provided by section 115C- 325, the very title of which—“Principal and Teacher Employment Contracts”— purports to govern teachers’ employment contracts, have been a fundamental part of the bargain that Plaintiffs and thousands of other teachers across this State accepted when they decided to defer the pursuit of potentially more lucrative professions, as well as the opportunity to work in states that offer better financial compensation to members of their own profession, in order to accept employment in our public schools.
The ruling by the three-judge panel affirms Superior Court Judge Robert H. Hobgood’s decision handed down a little over a year ago.

Under North Carolina’s “Career Status Law,” teachers in their first four years were deemed “probationary” and employed year-to-year under annual contracts. At the end of the four-year period, they became eligible for career status, giving them rights to continuing contracts and due process protections from arbitrary or unjustified dismissals.

In summer 2013, lawmakers enacted a repeal of that law in an effort to rid the state of tenure by 2018, saying that it enabled bad teachers to stay in the system.

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/06/02/just-in-court-of-appeals-says-repeal-of-nc-tenure-law-is-unconstitutional/#sthash.nkB65Sc2.sKSMHTmS.dpuf

Recently the Los Angeles Times published a poll showing that most people dislike tenure, probably thinking it means a job for life, protecting incompetent lazy teachers. Do they know that tenure means due process, the right to a hearing before an independent person? I don’t know of another nation where education leaders are so obsessed with finding and firing teachers. Why aren’t they obsessed with recruiting well-prepared teachers, supporting them, mentoring them, and retaining them? These results are the direct consequence of the corporate reform mentality, displayed in Race to the Top and “Waiting for ‘Superman.'” Keeping this narrative going discourages people from entering teaching–a very difficult and low-paid career choice with long hours–and encourages veteran teachers to leave. We are approaching a crisis where the question will be: How can we persuade people to enter and stay in teaching? But of course, the entrepreneurs will be ready with online learning so that one paraprofessional can oversee 100 students. Maybe that’s the point.

 

Here are some letters written in response to the poll. Notice the letter from the teacher affiliated with the Gates-funded TeachPlus, who is willing to jettison job protections for all teachers because she knows a few “bad” teachers.

A recent poll reported in the Los Angeles Times produced interesting results and a divide between Latino and white voters.

 

Latino voters support standardized tests, while most white oppose them.

 

Both groups support public schools (as compared to privately managed schools), but Latino voters support them by larger margins.

 

A majority of Latino voters, 55%, said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information. Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.

 

None of the voters know that the new Common Core exams provide no information about how a student is progressing other than a score; they offer no diagnostic information whatever so there is nothing that a teacher or parent learns other than how many answers they got right compared to others in the same grade.

 

Voters were critical of tenure, assuming it means a lifetime job, with whites more critical than Latino and black voters.

 

Latino and black voters believe that more money should be put into schools in poor neighborhoods to improve them:

 

Nearly half of voters surveyed said publicly funded, independently run charter schools offer a higher-quality education than traditional public schools. Still, a majority of white voters, 56%, believe the state should invest in improving existing schools instead of spending additional money to create more charters. Minority voters held on to that belief more strongly, with support between 67% and 69%.

 

Eight out of 10 black and Latino voters said putting more money into schools in economically or socially disadvantaged areas would improve the quality of public education somewhat or a lot, compared with 68% of white voters.

 

The article includes an interview with Dan Schnur of the University of Southern California, brother of Jon Schnur, the architect of Race to the Top. USC conducted the poll.

 

 

When Governor Cuomo’s budget was passed by the Néw York State Senate, it included mandates for test-score based evaluation of teachers and other provisions that teachers found insulting. Here is the State Senate’s Wall of Shame and Wall of Fame, identifying those who voted for and against this anti-teacher legislation. I previously posted a similar chart for the New York Assembly. Save this list for the next election if you live in New York.

 

 

 

 

IMG_7076

Former CNN talking head Campbell Beown is dissatisfied with Néw York’s budget deal, which extends the probationary period for teachers from three years to four years and makes it easier to fire teachers based on test scores, whether tenured or not.

She told Politico.com:

“CAMPBELL BROWN FIGHTS ON: The budget deal recently inked in New York sets out tough new rules [http://bit.ly/1G7uZkC] for evaluating teachers and granting them tenure. But education reform activist Campbell Brown isn’t planning to wait and see how the new system affects the quality of the teaching corps. Her Partnership for Educational Justice plans to press ahead with a lawsuit [http://bit.ly/1NEBytV ] challenging tenure and job protection statutes. The suit, modeled on the successful Vergara case in California, argues that New York laws protect incompetent teachers from dismissal and thus violate students’ right to a quality education. While the budget reforms have promise, Brown said it’s still way too hard for districts to lay off bad teachers, especially those with seniority. “We are glad that Albany appears to have finally woken up to the crisis in our public schools. But make no mistake, they have a long way to go and there is much work ahead,” Brown told Morning Education. “This will have no bearing on the legal case moving forward.”

Clearly she won’t be satisfied until tenure is completely eliminated and teachers can be terminated for any reason without a hearing.

This budget bill includes very detailed provisions that determine how teachers and principals in New York state should be evaluated. Needless to say, it was written by non-educators. Have any of them ever evaluated a teacher? Doubtful. Some of the details of implementation will be turned over to the State Education Department or the Board of Regents, but some features are clear: No teacher can be rated effective if he or she is rated ineffective on student performance (test scores).   The state will require that every teacher be evaluated by an independent person who does not work in the school. How many thousands of evaluators will be hired? What will it cost? Who will pay? No one knows. It is not in the budget. What value is the opinion of someone who observes a teacher or principal for an hour or a few minutes?   This is a bill that is written to oust teachers. It reeks of disrespect. It shows Governor Cuomo’s rage against the people who work with children in public schools every day. This bill is his payback to the teachers’ unions for not endorsing his re-election after he declared himself the lobbyist for charter students (3% of the state’s enrollment). Ironically (or not), many outraged teachers are blaming their union leaders for not fighting this bill. To be sure, it would not have passed without the votes of Assembly Democrats, many of whom said they were voting for it “with a heavy heart.” Just how heavy their hearts were cannot be measured, sort of like trying to measure true learning and true education.   Enrollments in teacher education programs are collapsing, in New York and across the nation. Those who enter teaching today are either woefully uninformed of the politicians’ hostility towards them or are prepared to fight a long battle for their children and their profession.   What kind of society makes war on its teachers?

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