General Question

nmguy's avatar

Any opinions on the decision to strike down teacher tenure?

Asked by nmguy (528points) June 13th, 2014

How does everyone feel about the teacher tenure decision?

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39 Answers

josie's avatar

Good move.

If you can’t fire a bad (tenured) teacher, students and their taxpaying parents have no chance.

If private institutions want to establish tenure, so be it. The tuition payers can always take their money elsewhere if they do not like it.

Tax payers who are supporting public schools, and who can not afford to pay double to escape to a private school and/or are deprived of a voucher, are stuck with tenured mediocrity.

El_Cadejo's avatar

As a student I hated the idea of tenure. I saw so many good young teachers get dismissed while the old tenured teaches seemed like they didn’t give much of a fuck about their job anymore because it was pretty much guaranteed they would be keeping it.

tinyfaery's avatar

Oy. My wife is a teacher. A great teacher. She says wholeheartedly that some people should not be teaching and have no business being around kids.

On the other hand, administrators play favorites, get rid of people they don’t like (no matter how good they are) and tenure helps keep good teachers teaching even if administration (who are more concerned with distict and admin politics than the kids and teachers) personally doesn’t like a teacher.

If their is no tenure for teachers the administration should also have an equal requirement for being evaluated.

The tenure debate is not so black and white.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

What!?!? Now they are attacking the teachers’ tenure programs? This flies in the face of all that is holy in the world. We need those teachers to feel that they cannot lose their jobs ever to make them strive to be better teachers.
If it’s good enough for many Justices in the US Judicial system, surely it’s good enough for teachers.
And it’s not as though a few bad teachers are ruining the whole tenure barrel. There are professors at University level who, were it not for tenure, would be selling their skills on the open market instead of passing down their valuable wisdom.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

some of the worst teachers in the New York City school system have tenure and can not be fired. apparently the teachers union care more about the teachers than the children.

more and more parents elect to home school or pay for private schools.

canidmajor's avatar

I tend to agree with @tinyfaery, here. There are, of course, some lousy tenured teachers, but without tenure, the high quality, experienced teachers would be ousted pretty quickly by school boards looking to cut costs and bring in brand new cheaper teachers. This issue has come up more than once in places I’ve lived and his been a cause of much concern.

@BeenThereSaidThat: the Teachers’ Union is supposed to care more about the teachers. That’s their job

ragingloli's avatar

This is a ploy of conservatives to get rid of secular teachers, to replace them with christian fundaMentalists, in order to further their theocratic plans to brainwash children with creationism and other assorted religious lies.
And no, I am not being sarcastic.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Several points:

1) this is far from over – this will be tied up in court for a decade. And this was one district court in one state—there are appeals, state supreme court, US appeals, and the Supreme Court. So nothing is happening quickly.

2) I’m in the middle on this. I think that there should be some protection for teachers on this, specifically because some principals and boards of education and superintendents can be arbitrary and vindictive for no reason. So teachers should be insulated from arbitrariness.

3) On the other had, not every teacher is a gem, and just because you got tenure at age 28 does not mean that you are still good at age 48. So I’m in favor of serious assessments of teachers, with serious consequences for bad teaching. Right now that aspect of things is lacking.

4) To some degree the teachers unions did this to themselves. They held extremist, absolutist views when any sentient should could have seen that the winds were shifting. The teachers union should have been out front, ahead of the courts, saying “let’s figure out a middle ground” – but they didn’t.

muppetish's avatar

I have mixed feelings. I worked with some fully-tenured instructors who deserve to be fired for so many reasons it makes my head spin. However, as @tinyfaery points out, tenure also helps protect the genuinely good instructors whose methods or views are not as desired by the administrators. Many of my mentors employ pedagogies that their higher ups just don’t understand, and I would hate to see them replaced by more “by-the-book” instructors.

I don’t think throwing tenure out the window is the in the interest of the students or instructors. However, maybe the policies for the tenure process could do with a major facelift.

I also think addressing funding and administration will benefit impoverished schools more.

dappled_leaves's avatar

It worries me. I think great teachers are made, not born. I know that my own teaching improves with time and experience. What happens if I don’t have enough time to be great before someone decides the department can do better? Especially considering that half my time and resources will be spent on research, not teaching?

Also, some of my best teachers have had students rail against them for really stupid reasons (usually because their classes were unreasonably perceived as “too hard”). I’d hate to think what would happen to them if this occurred while there was an unsupportive chair or dean, if they didn’t have the protection of tenure.

Judi's avatar

My daughters kindergarten teacher had absolutely no business teaching kids, especially such impressionable young minds. I had taught my daughter her multiplication tables but forgot to teach her her lower case letters. Brcause of this she decided my daughter was slow and couldn’t pay attention.
I was the room mother so I got to hear about all this teachers aches and pains and her her complain that they didn’t giver her enough “Aide Hours” in her class.
As a first time mother I was worried about my daughter and concerned about how I could help her to do better.
The teacher handed out citizenship grades based on how she felt about the kid that day. My daughter would often come home crying saying, “I tried my hardest to get a happy happy face but all I could get was a straight face. ”
Mid year we moved to another sate. I expressed my concerns to her new teacher who thankfully trashed any idea that my daughter might be slow. She would not compare the kids and was an amazing woman who brought out the best in every child.
Towards the end of the year I asked her, “Miss Maryanne, I know you don’t compare the kids, but her teacher in California said that she was slow and had trouble paying attention. I know you love her but I really need to know how she’s doing comparatively.”
She replied, :That teacher had to be lying. Your daughter is probably one of the most attentive students I have. She is smart and compassionate which is rare and is very good at helping other children when they don’t understand.”
Later, we ended up moving back to that same town where the awful teacher was. My daughter was in the G.A.T.E (Gifted and Talented Education) Program.
We heard that the same teacher was still teaching. My daughter and I decided to go and talk to the Principal and let him know how this woman nearly devastated my daughter and how we believed she could be responsible for destroying the self esteem of many children for life.
He basically told us that since she was tenured, and nearing retirement there was nothing he could do. For the next few years she would be allowed to destroy children in her wake.
That’s why I don’t believe in tenure. At least at the elementary level where children are stuck with the same person all day.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Judi This isn’t about children. It’s about university-level teaching.

Judi's avatar

That wasn’t clear in the question. On the university level it has more merit.
It doesn’t seem to be limited to university teachers
After looking into it, @dappled_leaves, it’s ALL ABOUT CHILDREN!

dappled_leaves's avatar

Ah, then thank you for the clarification. When I hear the word “tenure,” I assume it’s about universities. I’ve never heard of tenure being given below that level.

Judi's avatar

We’re talking about California. :-)

dxs's avatar

From what I’ve heard on tenure, it seems inappropriate for high schools and below. Teaching in general should be better paid since it’s a very important job. Perhaps that will encourage people to go into teaching with passion instead of the sole desire for a paycheck. But, ehh, what the hell we’ll spend the money on killing people and what not.

stanleybmanly's avatar

On the one hand there are people teaching who have no business in a classroom, but far more worrying to me are the growing mountainload of disincentives confronting those talented people foolish enough, or rather with enough idealism to consider teaching as a career. Considering what’s at stake, its rather appalling the extent to which the profession of teacher has plummeted in the public esteem. There won’t be any problem finding the “bad” teachers in a society where the gifted and talented have a choice between an underpaid and under appreciated profession with mounting responsibilities and unending public criticism, or say a job in one of the Wall st. casinos. To my mind we’re already living with the consequences, as the dumbing down of the country proceeds at a breakneck pace.

JLeslie's avatar

I can see the argument to keep tenure for college professors. Originally, tenure was only for them and then K-12 jumped on the bandwagon. K-12 I fail to see why they should get tenure. Why should their jobs be more guaranteed than anyone else’s?

Regarding the tenure debate currently going on in America I haven’t heard much rumble about the university level, I always hear it being discussed regarding K-12.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, I’ll admit I’m baffled that this has become a thing for K-12. But does the ruling not also affect universities?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@dappled_leaves K-12 Teachers in NJ get tenure as well. My answer was regarding lower level education as well rather than university.

JLeslie's avatar

Deleted by me because it double posted.

JLeslie's avatar

@dappled_leaves What ruling? I missed something. Do you live in America? Do you think K-12 should get tenure? At the university level there is an argument for it. University professors should be free to voice opinions on hot issues, universities are supposed to be a place of free thought and debate and it is argued that it isn’t safe for faculty professors to do so unless their positions are protected. A conservative administration might threaten a professors job of they disagree politically for instance. K-12 is not about free thought really. The teachers follow a curriculum and are supposed to be neutral on the big topics like religion and politics if those topics ever even come up. College students are adults, which makes a huge difference. If a K-12 child has a shitty teacher they are usually stuck with them. Even if the parent wants a different teacher they are often met with a lot of resistance. A college student can drop their class. Do K-12 teachers ever not get tenured? A college professor may not be granted tenure if students complain, consistently drop the class, etc.

LostInParadise's avatar

The U.S. should model itself after the Finnish educational system

Finland regularly comes out near or at the top in international testing. This was not always the case. The Finns realized that their country is not endowed with much in the way of natural resources. They came to the conclusion that their key to prosperity was to invest in its citizens by revamping the educational system.

Here is the basic idea. Teachers are highly trained, needing a master’s degree to teach. Teaching is regarded as a profession, like lawyer or doctor, and teachers are given more latitude in how they teach. They have strong unions and tenure. There are no standardized tests.

There is currently a war on public education in the U.S., done in the name of “reform”. The basic idea is to hold schools and teachers accountable for the results of the constant standardized tests. By its own standards, performance on the standardized tests, the so called reforms are not working. Instead of drawing the obvious lessons, the reaction is to instead double down on what does not work.

JLeslie's avatar

@LostInParadise Finish schools are different in many more ways than those you listed. Finish children and Chinese children both do well, and some of their approaches are very different. What I find in common with the two are both expect students to learn the material before moving on to the next chapter so to speak. Finish children are given extra attention to learn material and Chinese children are expected to work hard at something until they have mastered it. In America we tend to just keep the whole class moving forward and the kids who don’t understand chapter one move onto chapter two also. In certain subjects that is a nightmare. Math being a biggy, and math is where there is a lot of concern in American education.

Judi's avatar

@JLeslie, it’s in California and elementary and high school teachers are tenured on the first day of their third year. I linked an article about the ruling above.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi That article isn’t loading right for me. I can see the headings but the rest ofthe copy doesn’t show up. I have this problem on other sites, it has to be my iPad. I did google on my phone though now that you gave me some info, and it says you can be tenured in Cali with as title as 18 months on the job. That’s ridiculous! In the article I read it mentioned California students have a right to equal education. I know in Conneticut it is worded as adequate education not equal.

The articles I read didn’t actually mention what level school, are you saying the court case was regarding k-12 and univeristy level? I never think of tenure debate in regards to professors.

Judi's avatar

The court case is regarding elementary and high school.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Commendations for the participants in this conversation. Great discussion!

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Ok, thanks.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I think it is far overdue. If society was not so mamby pamby about school vouchers across the board, it would not be necessary to rule on it, the schools themselves would have rooted out the dead wood themselves.

@JLeslie Finish schools are different in many more ways than those you listed. Finish children and Chinese children both do well, and some of their approaches are very different.
If Chinese schools were as they use to be, it was not uncommon to have a class of 45 students with a cache of student aids. That would not fly here in the US because any class larger than 15 students is believed to be too many. If the Chinese teachers can teach a class that size and the Chinese students can learn (and better than their US counterparts) in a class that size, why can’t we in the US do it?

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I certainly do not have all the answers.

I saw Bill Gates a couple of months ago talking about education. He has looked at many studies and many countries, he is very interested in education for the nation, and he said what they found was that one of the most important factors in children doing well in school is having a great teacher, not class size. That bad teachers are a serious problem. Moderate teachers should be given the opportunity to get better and learn best practices.

The culture in China is very different than the US. There are down sides I am sure. I think when Chinese children really can’t perform well in school it is devastating. I don’t know much about it though.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@JLeslie The culture in China is very different than the US. There are down sides I am sure. I think when Chinese children really can’t perform well in school it is devastating.
I was reading about schools in Japan and you would think they were in college already, their classes are much tougher, then after these tough classes they go to afterhours secondary classes or ”cracking schools”. Unlike here, mediocrity is not an option. Your education dictates if you are going to be a junior executive at Sony or stuck as a fish fryer in Tokyo. What I see here is people saying do your best even if that “best” is substandard, people are suppose to accept it because that is just the way you are.

ragingloli's avatar

Sure a good teacher is important, but class size is, too.
Just as in a restaurant a good chef is the most important thing, but if the menu is too big, even the greatest chef will fuck up.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Right, you are basically sun up what I have read on the topic about expectations.

@ragingloli I am not saying class size doesn’t matter, but what Gates said was the teacher is the most important factor, which happens to tie into the tenure question perfectly. There are some new classroom ideas Gates is putting into practice wher the kids move through subjects on their own and the teacher monitors their progress (it’s very computerized) and when the child hits a snag the teacher works closely with the child to get him through that section. In this scenerio a teacher can handle a lot of children, because not all children are hitting snags at one time. It doesn’t work for every subject. It’s a new idea, so there are not long term studies to decide how effective or ineffective it is, but so far it seems good.

For sure we can all a free a bad teacher will harm the learning no matter what the class size. I’d rather have a great teacher in a class of 35 then a bad teacher in a class of 25. One thing that I think is very negative about larger class sizes is I think children are less likely to ask questions.

RocketGuy's avatar

On one hand, public school teachers have it rough:
1) kids come in at various levels – some are far ahead, some can’t read. The teachers are supposed to teach the same material to all levels.
2) kids are getting more and more disruptive, have no respect. Seems like a parenting problem to me. And schools can’t expel them unless they get really bad.

Private school teachers have an easier time:
1) the cost weeds out some of the low performers
2) references and “shadowing” allow teachers to weed out disruptive kids
3) the school can expel kids for being disruptive or disrespectful.

So how do you define a “bad” public school teacher? It can’t be percentage of low scoring kids, because the mix is different every year. What if they get the dregs? What if they actually can teach the subject, but don’t have the child psychology skills to control the kids?

Should the metric be: percent improvement in a subject test, early in the school year vs late in the school year? Maybe you can see a big jump in score for a good teacher, no matter how low the incoming kids are.

Would a 10 year tenure be better than a 3 year tenure? Then the school has a better chance of seeing if the teacher is good?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@RocketGuy So how do you define a “bad” public school teacher?
If all schools were under a voucher system, the students themselves would determine; no one would want to attend the class of the ”bad” or boring teachers.

What if they actually can teach the subject, but don’t have the child psychology skills to control the kids?
Back on the day they did not have to worry about how to ”shrink out” a kid. All he/she had to say was. ”Do that one more time and it is off to the office with you”; no one wanted to go to the office because you knew there was a 50% or better chance you would leave with a sore ass and detention. That option has gone by the way of T-Rex and so has much of the control and respect in the classroom.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central As far as a large proportion of the students are concerned, a “bad” teacher is one who challenges them and makes them work. You can’t let the students decide who the teachers should be.

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