Teacher tenure has been in effect for more than 100 years in order to protect teachers from getting fired for reasons unrelated to their teaching ability. Back then, teachers could be let go for speaking against a new rule that the school board wanted to pass, or for something as trivial as wearing a pair of pants to work instead of a dress or skirt. There is now a proposal to completely rework tenure for public school teachers in New Jersey because Gov. Chris Christie feels that it’s merely a way to protect bad teachers.
While Christie is against teacher tenure and wants to eliminate it, he has compromised and offered a new proposal: teachers rated as highly effective or effective for three consecutive years can receive tenure, but if they are rated partially effective for two years or as ineffective for one year, they can lose their status. Christie’s proposal also gives more weight to student standardized test scores and classroom observations.
It makes sense to regularly evaluate teachers on how they work and how their students perform, but considering test scores as a big part of the grade doesn’t. Many students freeze on standardized tests and simply don’t do well, through no fault of the teacher. These scores should be looked at, but how the teacher performs in the classroom should be the ultimate assessment.
According to Dean of Education Sharon Sherman, the new proposal won’t hurt Rider education majors; in fact, she believes that the university has fully prepared them to work well with the changes to tenure.
Contrary to popular belief, tenured teachers aren’t guaranteed a job for life and can be fired — about one year and several thousand dollars later. To get a tenured teacher fired, charges against the teacher must be filed, evaluations of the teacher and students must be conducted and court hearings and appeals must occur. It’s a lengthy, expensive process — one that many school boards don’t want to go through. That’s why tenure should not be given to just anybody.
Right now, teachers can receive tenure in just two or three years. But is that an appropriate amount of time to assess whether a teacher deserves that level of protection? Christie believes that bad teachers are protected by tenure, and they can be, as long as they work hard for a few years. So why not extend the required length of time to assess teachers to five or 10 years? Rider professors aren’t eligible for tenure until the beginning of their sixth year of service. We should hold our K-12 teachers to this same standard.
Teacher tenure is a necessity. If there is a rule that the school board wants to pass, teachers should be able to speak out against it if they feel that it won’t be beneficial to the students without fear of losing their jobs. If teachers make a lot of money and the school wants to bring in a younger, less-expensive teacher, they should not be fired for that reason. There must be an indication that the teacher is not fulfilling his or her duties and giving the students the best education possible — the ultimate goal of tenure.
Christie has made a great decision to revamp tenure. But he should give less weight to student test scores and focus more on teacher performance for a longer period of time than currently required so that only the best teachers get the kind of protection that tenure provides.
This weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Angelique Lee.