Friday, July 4, 2008

Tenure for Public School Educators

So, here's an interesting article from The Washington Post which details negotiations between the DC teachers union and the school district. It's ultimately about a proposal which would offer teachers more money to give up their tenure. Teacher tenure for public school teachers is one of those really divisive issues for some in education. I get why some people
are bothered by it, the idea that teachers could be good for three years and then get really lazy once they get tenure, knowing that it's much harder to fire a teacher after they have tenure. Tenure is appealing for school districts because it's not transferable and they know that once teachers get it, they are unlikely to switch districts willy-nilly and there's something to be said for retention of staff. Tenure is appealing for teachers because there's a sense that it allows teachers to be more free with their students & subjects -- especially if you teach a potentially controversial subject like, say, social studies.

From the POV of the school district, I get why they would be willing to do this, pay teachers more with the understanding that their heads are always on the chopping block. On the other hand, the idea of tying teacher pay to student testing is scary to me. So much goes into whether a kid does well on a standardized test outside of the effort that an individual teacher puts into her or his classroom. Kid's sick that morning or just discovered that her parents are getting a divorce and there goes those test scores, no matter how well-educated the kid is. This is especially tricky in a city district like DC, where a higher percentage of the population of children is dealing with the issues that keep kids from learning, like being poor or hungry or homeless or having an otherwise less-than-ideal home life.

On the other hand, we've tried it the other way and it hasn't worked so hot, so let's give it a whirl and see what happens.


SKH said...

I wrote about this (evaluating teachers using students' test scores) for my masters degree. It was difficult to stick to the statistics of it and not get wrapped up in the educational and political perspectives, and I found myself getting incredibly annoyed at people who think that test scores are a great way to 'hold teachers accountable'. There is rarely ever any discussion in the media of the actual nitty-gritty statistical work and decisions that it takes to evaluate teachers-which doesn't surprise me--nor is there much discussion of the 'crazy' belief that students and parents should also be accountable for a child's education. Teachers aren't miracle workers, no matter how many hours they put in.

cmk said...

It's amazing, isn't it? I didn't know that you did work in this area. I'm sure we could have a barn-storming discussion about it!