J.X. asks from San Clemente, CA on May 27, 2011
Can Anyone Explain to Me How Tenure for Teachers Is Good for Students?
Just got done watching "Waiting for Super Man." It made my blood boil. I'm sold, tenure does nothing good for students. Though for the sake of hearing both sides, can anyone explain to me how tenure benefits the children?
K.M. answers from Chicago on May 27, 2011
It does nothing for anyone but the teachers... same with the union, they work for the teachers not the kids.
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J.T. answers from New York on May 28, 2011
J.B. answers from Atlanta on May 27, 2011
The idea is to offer a big perk to professionals who don't get paid very well. Unfortunately in any field that does this, you wind up with a bunch of bad apples (or just lazy ones) that can't be fired. I don't think they should completely take it away, but it should be MUCH harder to earn than just "time served."
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S.B. answers from Philadelphia on May 28, 2011
Tenure does many great things. The first & most important is that it protects teachers from politics. Let me share a story that happened to a local teacher about 3 years ago. This man taught band & music classes & directed the after school band program for about 20 years. His band won awards at every competition they attended, for years. He was hugely successful. About three years ago his wife decided to run for a position on the school board against a current school board member. She lost. A few days after the election he was notified that he was fired from the after school band position (a non-tenured position) by the board of ed. B/c notes are kept of the meetings, it was known that the woman his wife challenged was the one that initiated the firing. If he did not have tenure, he would have been fired from his teaching position as well. For something that was not related to him AT ALL. It was for something his wife did! Thankfully, for him the students & band parents protested & he was reinstated in his job. Tenure protects us from wrongful termination, so they couldn't fire him from his teaching position "without cause". If they had "cause" skipping work, arriving late, not teaching, they could fire him. Firing someone with tenure is not impossible, it just takes some work on the part of the supervisors & principals. They have to document that they notified the teacher of the problem & worked with them to fix it. If it does not get fixed, they can with hold the teacher's incriment (raise). They can do this for as many years as they like, or they can begin the firing process. Most of the time if the administration tells a teacher they will be firing them, the teacher quits & the problem is solved. I know of 2 teachers who were told they would be fired & instead they quit. Problem solved, teacher gone. My husband works for a very large school district. They recently closed their alternative school (for the bad kids) & had to bring those staff members to the other schools. One of the staff members is awful! He does nothing but steal other teachers worksheets & hand them out. The administrators at this school are excellent & noticed a problem immediately. They started documenting his poor teaching & his lack of trying from his first month in the building. They are building a case to fire him. I doubt he will return next year. Again, not impossible to fire someone, it just takes some work. If you have bad teachers in your school, blame the administration for not dealing with it. I also ask you to think of every job you've had...how many "bad" employees were at those jobs. How many times have you said "so & so must be related to someone really important b/c they still have a job". My friend works for a huge cooperation. She moved to a different position a few months ago, since being in this position she has discovered that the person who did her job (finance) previously, did just about everything wrong. In fact the entire department (most of the people are now new) was a disaster. The previous employees have cost the company MILLIONS of dollars in mistakes! Yet, none of them have been fired yet! They were just moved to different positions within the company! Tenure protects good teachers. Bad employees everywhere are protected by lazy bosses.
The second is that is protects older, more experienced, and usually better teachers from being fired to hire younger, cheaper, less experienced (& the majority of time lower quality) teachers. Young teachers may have a lot of enthusiasm, but good teaching only comes from experience. NO ONE is a good teacher their first day on the job. (My hubby & I are both teachers & we have both improved with each year of experience). You also need older teachers to guide younger ones. I would not have survived my first 2 years of teaching if it weren't for 2 older teachers in my school supporting me & guiding me.
Third, tenure allows you to pay less for quality teachers. My husband & I are science majors who choose to teach. Tenure provides stability to the teacher's family. We could have worked in industry & would be making over 100k a year (each) and probably only working 40 hours most weeks. But, we love teaching & chose that instead. W/out tenure (& benefits) teaching would not have been a viable option. My hubby has been teaching for 10 years & only now makes 58K. I am now a SAHM, if I had not stopped teaching I two would be 10 years in at only 58K. after about 20 years my hubby will be making about 80K and that's the top of the guide, so that doesn't increase much over any additional years. So, even at his top level of experience he won't make as much as he would in industry right now. In fact, during grad school, his class was told by a rep from CVS that if they switched to pharmacy (he was begging for people) that they would START at 100K!
Fourth, tenure can give a teacher a sense of confidence. I became a MUCH better teacher on my first day of tenure, b/c I finally relaxed. Prior to that the school principal made me so nervous (he was gruff, mean & constantly have unexpected outbursts, he would yell at people for no reason & I was always afraid that I would do something to piss him off & he'd fire me in a fit of anger) that I could not teach as well. Once the threat of being fired for no reason was off my head I was better able to focus on my teaching & I did much better. My hubby's (who taught at a different school) administrators were more calm and logical. He always knew where he stood with them. And so, receiving tenure did not affect him at all.
I could go on and on, but I think I've said enough. Thank you for asking your question.
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M.G. answers from Chicago on May 28, 2011
I am a public school teacher. Tenure is in place to protect teachers from being wrongfully fired, which could be problematic. There are a lot of politics in the world of teaching, and with such an abundance of teachers looking for jobs, who's not to say a principal could fire a perfectly good teacher to make way for so-and-sos friend or daughter or son to teach? The sad reality is once some teachers have tenure they view it as a reason to slack off. But, while SOME think this way, most teachers do not feel this way.
I have not seen Waiting for Superman, and I honestly don't plan on ever seeing it. Whether or not people agree with tenure, I will tell you I bust my behind every year to meet the needs of my students, provide a safe learning environment, push them to do their best, and prepare them for life. I have to do all this with the pressures of standardized testing and people out there trying to "catch" us teachers not doing a perfect job. The reality is I can do what I can in my four walls for seven hours a day, and I will work as hard as I can to do it, but we cannot fix society's problems in schools alone. Parents need to step up and do their part, too, instead of leaving everything up to the schools.
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L.F. answers from San Francisco on May 28, 2011
I am not going to take sides with the tenure issue, but would like to address the teacher bashing going on with the post. In any profession you are going to find different levels of workers. Most teachers are hard-working and dedicated professionals. They teach because they love it and want students to learn.
Most teachers put in many hours beyond their regular day and they only get paid for the 180 school days. Teachers have summers off without a paycheck and some have to get second jobs to make ends meet. With the recent cuts to education, teachers have larger class sizes, less resources and many received pay cuts or lost their job. They spend their own money to provide supplies for their classes.
Tenure or not, unless you have spent a week, year or many years in the shoes of a teacher it is not fair to label teachers as lazy and not concerned about the students. A teacher will not last in the job if that is their attitude.
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M.R. answers from Chicago on May 27, 2011
If used correctly (which it isn't in some places) tenure keeps good teachers in the district. If tenure did not exist, a school board could walk in and wipe out a group of "old and expensive" teachers without just cause.
Tenure keeps the really good English teacher with 15+ years of experience in place even when the administration wants to fire them because they want to keep the cheaper, non-tenured football coach who does little more than roll out the ball for PE classes but is considered a god because he coaches.
Let's say a talented female teacher gets pregnant, has a baby, and takes a leave of absence. Tenure can protect her job when the administrator wants to ditch her in favor of a male teacher or a single female teacher who won't have those "disruptive leaves because they dared to get pregnant".
Now - given these two situations, which teacher would you want for your child?
I will fully agree that tenure can be abused and unions work tirelessly to protect the inept. The process to get rid of a bad tenured teacher is absolutely ridiculous. But, just because there are some bad apples does not mean that every single teacher who reaches tenure just sits back and coasts for the rest of his or her career. That's just ignorant.
In my district, one attains tenure after four consecutive years of full-time teaching with favorable evaluations from several administrators. But really, it doesn't stop there. Once tenure has been achieved, in order to maintain a teaching license we must complete 120 CPDUs (workshops, professional development classes, conferences) or 8 graduate level credit hours every five years, for the rest of the career. 20% of those hours must be related to special education. More often than not, teachers must pay for these workshops, conference, graduate classes, travel/lodging/meals while at a conference or other opportunities out of their pockets and do them on their own time (many do them during the summer). If you don't do these, your license isn't renewed and you don't teach anymore.
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R.J. answers from Seattle on May 28, 2011
Tenure's PRIMARY focus is to provide academic freedom. To protect teachers when what they are researching or teaching goes against popular opinion. It's a SAFEGUARD. Just like the checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative, & Judiciary. Most of the time those checks and balances aren't 'needed', but we've seen the alternative for when one person (or small group of people) seize power. Having that 'check' balances the system. Of course, NOTHING is perfect, and there's always lousy people in the world, but it is far better than the alternative.
Tenure is VITAL to a freethinking and free society for the EXACT same reason that lifelong appointments are VITAL in the judiciary: it frees judges up from outside pressure just as it frees teachers up from outside pressure.
Just like judges, not all professors or teachers are tenured. There's something called 'tenure track' which (in universities) is HIGHLY competitive and relatively scarce these days. The tenure and non tenture positions create a dialogue of opinions. 1 group (nontenure) will always be afraid of losing their jobs if the dare to 'stick their neck out'. We PROTECT whistle blowers and inventors (patents, intellectual property, etc) in every other line of work... tenure is how we protect academics, how we protect our educational system, how we make sure that the ________ (church, govt., pushy people on the school board, PTAs, ANY form of politics) most teachers have to bow to whoever happens to be 'best' at politics. Tenured teachers do not have to bow to whatever "pop" fad is out at the time.
Some famous examples of why the educational system fights to keep tenure:
- The Inquisition (teachers were amongst the first rounded up and tortured to death... indeed this is a COMMON theme amongst dictators, Saddam Hussein did it, many countries in africa have done it, Hitler did it, N.Korea did it. Sounds like great company to join, doesn't it? ANY teacher who does not teach exactly what the dictator wants taught and how is imprisoned &/or put to death)
And here's a few examples of those who DO have tenure
- Anti-vietnam-war teachers in the late 60s
- Science teachers who teach evolution in some bible belt states/districts even though if 'put to a vote' the parents of the school would overwhelmingly vote to strike it from the curriculum.
Without tenure... we have Government Schools. Think Soviet Union, or N Korea, or Hitler's Germany... but here.
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J.S. answers from Hartford on May 28, 2011
I'm absolutely shocked and disgusted at the ridiculous attitudes against teachers and unions and tenure. Like anything, tenure can be misused but in most instances that's not the case and when there's a truly bad teacher it CAN be gotten around to remove the teacher when necessary. My mother was a teacher and I have two close friends (in real life) who are teachers.
Tenure benefits the children by helping them keep good teachers. But the main problems in our schools aren't "bad teachers" or a "bad school system." It's that many parents are not involved in their children's education. Parents are not involved in PTO or in close communication with their children's teachers. Yet they expect their children to maintain good grades and for the teachers to do everything. I can tell you that my best friend does an awful lot for her students that their parents ought to be doing for them... including providing toothbrushes, deodorant, and teaching them basic life skills that their parents never bothered to teach them. She's more of a parent to her students than their own parents are AND she teaches them and excels at her job. Thank goodness she's tenured.
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B.C. answers from Phoenix on May 27, 2011
IT'S NOT! So much of the school system is so messed up, I wish we could just get rid of the unions. They are not in it for the kids, they are all about making $$$$. Teachers should be rewarded for performance just like any other job and get raises accordingly. It would encourage them to perform at a higher standard. We spend more money on education than most of the world yet we have some of the worst education systems. Every year we throw more and more money at education and what good is it doing us. It buys us more administrators. Almost every teacher at my kids school has an aide. My teachers never had an aide when I was a student. Plus the parents all help out a temendous amount in my sons class. This also irritates me. everyone complains about teachers salaries. Helllllo, they work 188 days per year. The average American works 250 days / year. That is about 1 1/2 months more than a teacher. Plus most professionsals are salary and are putting in about 60 hrs/wk. I know most teachers put in extra time, but not 60 hours. I know because most of my friends are teachers. I know their job is important, but so are most peoples. Everyones job is what makes the world go round. Everyone has satisfaction and struggles in their own professions. Anyway, hope no one is offended by my comments, I am very passionate about the decline of our education system.
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T.S. answers from Sacramento on May 27, 2011
Tenure for teachers is INTENDED to be help students by protecting teachers from being fired for political reasons (think "Inherit the Wind"). Theoretically, it allows teachers to TEACH without fear of reprisal from outside forces who might disagree with them for some reason; ensures that they can grade students fairly without backlash from influential parents who want their child given an A, etc. At the University level, it's so that professors can pursue research that is IMPORTANT without fear of offending a donor and losing their jobs.
These days, you're right, teachers are tenured to automatically. I am a public school teacher... and a VERY good one... but I've been tenured for 6 of my 8 years of teaching, and there was NO WAY anyone knew back then that I'd turn out to be fantastic. I probably could of waited a few more years.
As a side note. Private schools are no better. They frequently have even FEWER requirements of teachers before or during their employment. As a result, teachers frequently know very little about actually TEACHING (because they don't have degrees in education) and often LOWER the rigor so that more students feel successful and their parents stay happy.
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