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The Schreiber Times

Counterpoint: Does the teacher tenure policy ensure the best education for students?

Molly Schiff, Staff Writer

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Schools are constantly changing. Teachers start using new textbooks, classrooms are renovated, and new curriculum is always being introduced. However, there’s one practice that has remained constant for a long time: teacher tenure. This system does not secure teachers against getting fired entirely, but rather protects them from being fired without due process.

Although tenure is beneficial in some cases, it can be too lenient in others. This is because tenure can also secure long-serving teachers’ jobs even when they commit actions that are inappropriate in the work environment.  Teacher tenure was created partially to secure freedom of speech and expression for teachers, in the context of reasons for them to be fired.  Today it unfortunately gives teachers the freedom to act in bad faith of their profession.

Knowing that they are unlikely to lose their jobs essentially gives them too much security, leading them to get away with acts that would have gotten them in trouble if there was no teacher tenure. This is a very sensitive topic due to the heavy influence that teachers have over children’s development, especially for elementary school children.

“I’ve heard of many instances where teachers had treated students unfairly. They have rarely had consequences for their actions,” said sophomore Nancy Brady.

If a teacher is, in fact, caught violating the rules of his or her profession, the resulting legal undertaking can be extremely strenuous.

Depending upon the circumstance, up to months of legal work may have to take place within the school, including the principals, school board, teachers’ union, and even the courts, before a tenured teacher can be fired.  Too many people would be forced to get involved, which makes trying to fire a tenured teacher a lengthy, tedious process. In short, it’s not for the faint of heart.

On top of all the time that pursuing a legal course of action against a tenured teacher would take, it would also be extremely costly.  School districts are often incapable of paying the demanding costs necessary to fire a teacher who is not properly doing his or her job.

Firing a teacher often causes an uproar among students and parents, and schools probably wouldn’t be overjoyed about all the bad press associated with the process.

In most states, teacher tenure is granted after only three years of service, which is not nearly enough time for a teacher to prove that they truly deserve the job.  After becoming tenured, there is less incentive for teachers to be on their “best behavior.”

Being guaranteed a job, basically for life, is a privilege that should only be awarded to teachers after a longer period of time. Such teachers can be well trusted since they have demonstrated all around excellence in teaching students. These teachers are the ones who deserve tenure as they are highly skilled in teaching.

“I wish teachers were evaluated over a longer period of time,” said freshman Arianna Asselta. “It would lead to a significantly less number of teacher-involved scandals.”

On a K-12 level, tenure is practically given away. Most college professors have to conduct extensive research in their field in order to achieve tenure.  Following this logic, our society seems to value college education more than it does primary education.

Instead, our society should be working hard to ensure that children receive the highest and most thorough level of education possible, an ambition that teacher tenure may actually be dissuading.

“The thought of teachers who don’t work hard having a permanent position is really frustrating, especially because of all the great teachers I’ve had that genuinely work so hard and have taught me so much,” said senior Stefan Appel.

Perhaps this all brings to light a new idea: teacher tenure need not be completely abolished but absolutely must be reformed.  Legal hurdles alone should never be the reason that even terrible or ineffective teachers can not be fired when there is just reason to do so.  In essence, we must end the ability of tenure to act as a shield against a teacher who will do more harm than good.  We owe it to future generations to create a foundation of effective educational processes, and teacher tenure reform would certainly help.

Ultimately, teacher tenure causes more trouble than it’s worth, putting students and school districts at a disadvantage. Getting rid of teacher tenure or at leasing restricting this entire process would lead to better quality of teachers and education. This will result in students performing better in school as they will have better and overall more motivated instructors throughout school.

 

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The student news site of Paul D. Schreiber Senior High School
Counterpoint: Does the teacher tenure policy ensure the best education for students?