Fixing Tenure: A proposal for assuring teacher effectiveness and due process
Center for American Progress
As its title indicates, this paper is a plan to rethink and rework the tenure of public-school teachers. Tenure, explains author Baratz-Snowden, is "a concept much misunderstood, and often unfairly identified as the major obstacle to assure that all children are taught by effective teachers." It is not, she insists, a fatal flaw, just a practice in urgent need of reform. The key lies in teacher evaluation systems, tools that Baratz-Snowden admits, and others have repeatedly shown, are mostly useless in their current form. Baratz-Snowden has some suggestions for creating better ones, such as establishing clear and precise teaching standards, including a professional development component that would provide feedback, and incorporating evidence of student achievement (through multiple measures such as portfolios and teacher-designed assessments, in addition to standardized test scores). But that's not all. Tenure evaluations should take into account "teachers' teaching and learning environment," since school environmental factors (like leadership, availability of supplies, and safety) affect an educator's ability to perform. And dismissal processes, she believes, must be developed in collaboration with teachers. The need for teacher buy-in seems strange (though not unexpected) since she refers numerous times to relations between "management and labor," but seems to believe they should be treated as professionals making faculty-style decisions. Still, she proffers three promising examples: Toledo, Minneapolis, and Green Dot's collective-bargaining agreement with the Los Angeles teachers' union. All of these maintain union involvement and emphasize teacher improvement over weeding out bad apples. Overall, her suggestions are union-friendly, yet constructive, provided one believes, as she obviously does, that any form of tenure--or "continuing employment status" as she would have us call it--is warranted. But to carry out her recommendations will be pricey--all those advanced data systems and arbitration arrangements--not to mention politically challenging. Read it here.
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