Thursday, May 27, 2010

We should Replace Teacher Tenure with Something that Makes More Sense

A resurgent trend among self-professed education reformers is to blame teacher unions for the poor state of public education.  The accusation is that teacher unions overly protect lazy teachers, negotiating teacher tenure provisions on their contracts that make it near-impossible to fire even the very worst teachers.

Perhaps it is time to change teacher tenure into something that makes more sense.

Can't we all agree that school districts need some time to try-out new teachers and see if they are a fit for the school?

Can't we all agree that if, after the above mentioned probationary period, schools should still be able to fire a teacher.  I think even teachers would agree and only ask that the teacher is made aware of the reasons why s/he is being fired and is given a chance to fix the problem before s/he is actually fired.  This all sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

Can't we all agree that some folks, even school administrators, can be petty and mean.  I mean we all know someone who has had a boss who was just out for blood.  Maybe you showed up your boss in front of her boss; maybe your boss was racist/homophobic/liberal and just didn't like your skin color/sexual habits/conservative politics.  That boss shouldn't be able to make up reasons to fire you right?  If they did, you should have the ability to appeal the decision, right?

Can't we all agree, then, that teachers should have the right to appeal a decision to fire them, too?

Sounds reasonable?

Okay, so to sum up: We replace teacher tenure with a 3 part system like this:

1. New teachers are on probation for a year or two so that schools can just try them out

2. After the probation period is over, schools can still fire teachers, but the teacher must know the charges and be given a chance to fix the problem.

3. Teachers can appeal the decision.