Fixing Tenure: A Proposal for Assuring Teacher Effectiveness and Due Process

Matthew Walsh

Center for American Progress, with author Joan Baratz-Snowden from the Education Study Center
June 2009

This Center for American Progress report provides a nationwide assessment of teacher tenure and ultimately concludes that most tenure models need to be fixed. The report reviews research and surveys that show teachers and the general public favor changes to the common tenure scheme. Educators, however, believe that there should still be a system of security for them, although they admit that the current model does not block enough sub-par teachers. It should not be underestimated how difficult any transformation of tenure will be, but the report is cautiously hopeful that changes can occur.

Author Joan Baratz-Snowden proposes substituting the phrase "teacher tenure," which she regards as hostile, with "continuing employment status" and "due process." Standards also play a role in evaluating teachers. After all, if there is no uniform way to track student achievement in a school district, state, or nation, the report suggests it will be impossible to put this information into the teacher-tenure equation.

Toledo, Ohio, is praised in the report for being an example of a first-class teacher tenure system (although, this contrasts somewhat with the findings of The Widget Effect, see here, reviewed below). Toledo's system connects new teachers with mentors who oversee their growth and then make a determination as to whether the educator makes tenure. The Buckeye State's new budget includes a model peer assistance and review program (see here). This model could be used to eventually tie into tenure decisions. Another promising aspect is a provision that requires teachers to be licensed for seven years before they are eligible for tenure (see here). The previous law allowed educators to attain tenure after only three years on the job.

For the report, see here.