Pedro Noguera went to the lions’ den, the Wall Street Journal, to explain why the corporate reformers’ crusade to eliminate teacher tenure is wrong-headed (the article is unfortunately behind a paywall). The WSJ, owned by Rupert Murdoch, is a bastion of anti-teacher, anti-public education thinking, whose writers consistently support vouchers, Teach for America, and anything else that disrupts public education and the teaching profession.

Noguera, a professor at New York University, writes:

“Ideally, tenure helps low-income schools to attract—and retain—good teachers. I’ve studied urban schools for many years, and it’s clear that disparities in teacher quality contribute to unequal academic outcomes among poor students. Students in districts with large minority populations are much more likely to be taught by new, inexperienced teachers who have only a bachelor’s degree and are often not certified in the subjects they teach. These teachers often earn considerably less than their counterparts in white, affluent districts, and frequently work under adverse conditions. Tenure has no bearing on how school districts chose to staff their schools.

“Schools in high-poverty communities are also typically underfunded, as revenues from local property taxes tend to be meager. That makes it difficult for low-income schools to find and keep top teachers. Educators may not be motivated solely, or even primarily, by salary, but it still influences decisions. A highly sought-after teacher would be unlikely to take a job in Oakland that pays $55,000 over a position in nearby Portola Valley that pays $90,000. So we have to make teaching in high-poverty schools more attractive.

“That’s what tenure does. In recent years, tenure has given teachers the job security that allows them to report cheating and call attention to the deplorable conditions in low-income schools. The conditions in the Los Angeles Unified School District are particularly troubling. Some classrooms in the system are among the most overcrowded in the country. Budget cuts have eliminated hundreds of librarians in some of the poorest schools, a loss that “has handicapped” students, as L.A.’s Roy Romer Middle School Principal Cristina Serrano told the L.A. Times in February.”

We should be doing everything possible to recruit and retain the best teachers, as other nations do, he writes. “This is what nations that outperform the U.S. in education—Canada, South Korea, Singapore and Finland—have done. Not only are teachers in these countries unionized with tenure, but teaching is a high-status occupation. We should be enhancing the profession, not undermining it.”

Thank you, Pedro, for writing such good sense and publishing it exactly where it needs to be read.