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Ocea Cuff Jacob Vane English 2010, 2011 Final

Tenured Teachers

Do you remember your first teacher? Do you remember your favorite teacher? Think about your worst teacher. Most people remember their teachers, especially their favorite and worst teacher. Teachers play a big role in life; they leave lasting impressions. When a teacher is in the same work place for ten or more years their job becomes secure and it becomes difficult for the teacher to lose their job. When this happens it is called tenured. I believe that teachers should not be tenured. Tenure in public schools occurs when a teacher has been teaching at the same school or in the same school district. A teacher becomes eligible for tenure when the teacher has been teaching in the same school or school district for 20 to 40 school months, depending on the circumstance of the teacher. (Lohman) They must also pass evaluations by the school board of their state in which they are teaching. According to the Oxford English Dictionary tenure is: Of an official position, one in a university or school: carrying a guarantee of permanent employment until retirement. (Tenure) If we applied this definition of tenure to the topic of teachers being tenured it would mean that after the teacher is tenured their job is guaranteed to them until retirement. Of, course this definition does not apply directly to the act of tenure toward public school teacher. The Regulations of the state board of education in Pennsylvania says that The Teachers Tenure Act


was designed to secure to the citizens of Pennsylvania a competent and efficient school system by preventing dismissal of capable teachers without just cause. (Pennsylvania) According to this the purpose of the tenure was to prevent capable, quality teachers from being fired for trivial causes. The Regulations of the state board of education goes on to say It is clear that the legislature did not intend, as appellants contend, that the Act should confer any special privileges or immunities upon the teachers themselves to retain permanently their positions regardless of merit or the future policy of the legislature as to their employment. (Pennsylvania) The problem with this is that tenure does give special immunities to the tenured teachers. The legislature did not intend for this immunity to occur, but in reality has happened. Tenure has given teachers a type of immunity this largely because of the image that the school will receive if they fire a tenured teacher. This makes administrators more hesitant to consider terminating a teacher who has been tenured. Opponents would argue that tenure gives teachers job protection that they otherwise would not have. Although the act of tenure does provide additional protection to teachers, teachers already have protections before they are tenured. Teachers are protected under the fourteenth amendment to not be terminated for race, color, religion, sex, or national origin of the teacher. However, before tenure was set up, teachers were fired for political reasons. This was one of the reasons that tenure was established. Tenure has stopped the elimination of teachers for political purposes. Because of the protection that tenure gave, teachers unions negotiated to have clauses from the tenure act included in teachers contracts. By the 1940s 70% of K-12 school teachers had job protections. In the mid-1950s the numbers grew to over 80%. (Goldhaber) Today if the clause is not included in the teachers contract then in is included in the state laws regarding teacher rights.


Opponents of purging the tenure act also argue that tenure allows the most dedicated teachers to stay in the school and therefore provides better quality education for the students. Although this can be true, the definition of quality has become much skewed in our society that whether a teacher provides quality education becomes a debatable topic. So what is quality? How can a teacher help provide a quality education? And how does quality apply to tenure? According to the Oxford English Dictionary quality is defined as A personal attribute, a trait, a feature of a persons character; an attribute considered desirable, a virtue. (Quality) According to this definition of quality any person could provide quality education because every person provides a different attribute to the classroom that could be desirable to another person. This is not the way that society defines quality education and it is not what society is searching for in a teacher. Society seems to be looking for a teacher that will raise test scores, but then does not care about test scores enough to negatively impact their teaching. They are looking for a teacher that will impact the students in a way that would cause them to enjoy learning. Society wants a teacher that will inspire the students to be creative and think outside the box, however, society has designed that a teacher stay inside of the designated state core curriculum. Society wants each student to learn to the fullest of their potential, yet teachers are only allowed to go at the same pace of the slowest student so that all of the students can keep up. Society, does not know what they want in a teacher. Therefore, for the definition of a quality teacher that will provide quality education must be found elsewhere. The National Staff Development Council (NSDC) defines quality teaching as having "a deep understanding of the subject knowledge being taught, the use of appropriate instructional methods, application of various classroom assessment strategies, and the ability to use findings based on human learning" (NSDC, 2001, p. 32) This definition includes the ideas of what


society is looking for in a teacher. Quality also includes the students. Often it is forgotten that educators are teaching people and not test subjects. People change; they learn in different ways and learn at different speeds. Therefore, a teacher must be constantly changing to better assist their students. Klieiner suggests that The best teachers are well organized and good managers, hold high expectation for themselves and others, are thoughtful in that they prevent classroom discipline problems before they begin, are accessible and easily approachable, and are warm and empathetic. (Kleiner, 1998, p.22) Many more attributes could be added to this list of what is desirable for a teacher in order for them to be providing quality education. Teaching seems to be an ever changing task and if done by the right person in the right way could be defined as an art. So, what does quality educators have to do with tenure? I would like to present that tenure allows teachers that are not providing quality education to stay in the school and continue providing that less desirable education. However, because they are under tenure the administration of the school does not want to fire them and hire a more effective teacher. Teachers that are in the field longer tend to experience a symptom that Kottler refers to as burnout. When burnout occurs a teacher is no longer being that educator that cares about what their students are learning and how its affecting them. Burnout is an insidious, progressive form of self-neglect. In its worst state, it represents a kind of slow deterioration that eventually rusts and corrodes the edges of your compassion and caring. (Kottler, p. 112) A teacher is more likely to experience this burnout after they have been in the field for number of years, therefore when they are tenured. When teachers they are the allowance to not watch as closely the impact they are making on their students, because they are no longer in a competition with the other teachers to be the best in their profession.


Competition in the workforce pushes a person to be better. Competition in the teaching field causes the teacher to be constantly evaluating themselves to see what they could improve in their teaching to help their students learn more effectively. As stated earlier, students are constantly changing. Consequently, teachers must be constantly changing in order to provide the best quality education that they can to their students. Thibodeaux suggests that Teacher tenure may create complacency in teachers because the teachers understand that it is far less likely that they will lose their job. They may come into the classroom but put in very little effort and not truly care about the children they teach (Thibodeaux). It is in this stage that our society loses the quality education that it does desire to have for our students. Abolishing tenure can assist in creating better quality education for the students of our society. When tenure was established for professors in the early 1900s it was needed to protect teachers from the constant strife politics. Professors needed the protection of the act in order to ensure that they would not be let go for political reasons. Since then the tenure clause that protected professors from being fired for political and trivial reasons has been included in teachers contracts and if not in the contract then, in the states policy. Therefore, every teacher is given the protection of tenure, before they actually receive tenure. Consequently, a tenured teacher is nearly impossible to abolish from the system. Because of this school systems tend to have unsatisfactory teachers that are tenured. Having unsatisfactory teachers being tenured negatively impacts the students that are being taught. However, because they are tenured the parents of students and the administration can do almost nothing about the negative impact that the teacher leaves. It is in these students that the future of our society lies. The way that we teach them now will impact how our society is changed in the future. Then let us give them the best education that is possible and that includes abolishing teacher tenure.


Works Cited

Goldhaber, Dan, and Michael Hanson. "Assessing the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions. Working Paper 31." National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. The Urban Institute (2010): 57.hwwilsonweb. Database. 6 Dec 2011 Imber, Michael. "Pervasive Myths in Teacher Beliefs About Education Law." Action in Teacher Education. 30.2 (2008): 88-97. Print. Kottler, Jeffrey, Stanley Zehm, and Ellen Kottler. On Being a Teacher. 3. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press, 2005. 158. Print. Lohman, J. "Teacher Tenure Law." Connecticut general assembly. Old Research Report, 2002. 0 Pennsylvania . Regulations of the State Board of Education.Teacher Tenure Act. Bucknell University, Russel Denis, 2001. Web. Pritchett, J., Sparks Tara J., and T. Taylor-Johnson. An analysis of teacher quality, evaluation, professional development and tenure as it relates to student achievement. Diss. Saint Louis University, 2010. Dissertations & Theses: Full Text, ProQuest. Web. 6 Dec. 2011.


"Teacher Tenure", 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2011. "Teachers' Rights." Encyclopedia of Everyday Law. Ed. Shirelle Phelps. Gale Cengage, 2003. 2006. 6 Dec, 2011 "tenured, adj.". OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 6 December 2011 Thibodeauxt, W.. "Pro&Con of Teacher Tenure."ehowfamily. Demand Media, 2011. Web. 6 Dec 2011. "quality, n. and adj.". OED Online. September 2011. Oxford University Press. 6 December 2011