NJ Gov. Chris Christie wants to end teacher tenure – and he's not alone
Just this week, state officials in New Jersey, Florida, and Idaho have called for the elimination of teacher tenure, and more states plan to join the debate.
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In most states, teachers can earn tenure after three to five years on the job.Skip to next paragraph
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The major teachers unions agree that it shouldn’t be so difficult for districts to remove bad teachers, but for every horror story along those lines, they say they can offer one about someone being fired for the wrong reasons. What needs strengthening, they say, is the whole continuum of recruitment, preparation, and evaluation.
“If the biggest problem, as some of these critics say, is that we have too many incompetent teachers and it needs to be easier to fire them, I would suggest their hiring and evaluation system is broken,” says Dennis van Roekel, president of the National Education Association.
In Finland, one of the top-performing countries educationally, Mr. Van Roekel notes that there’s no debate about getting rid of bad teachers because the bar is set so high at the start for people to become teachers. They are recruited from among top high school students, earn master’s degrees, and prove their teaching skills before being hired.
But New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R) says better teacher evaluations and eliminating teacher tenure go hand in hand. During his Jan. 11 State of the State speech (where Ms. Rhee was sitting in the front row), he said that a task force is working on “improving the measurement and evaluation of teachers.... And perhaps the most important step in that process is to give schools more power to remove underperforming teachers.”
“The time to eliminate teacher tenure is now,” he said.
In December, the New Jersey Educators Association proposed a way to streamline teacher dismissal cases by having arbitrators, instead of judges, decide them. “By taking the courts out of the equation, we believe the average case can be adjudicated in 60 to 90 days, and at a fraction of the cost,” said President Barbara Keshishian.
But many Democrats who control the New Jersey legislature seem to support going much farther in changing the system, Professor McGuinn says.
Rhee’s Students First policy agenda says tenure policies “make removing even the most unmotivated and ineffective teachers nearly impossible.” Tenure isn’t needed, the document says, because other “well-established federal and state policies allow teachers to challenge wrongful actions and prevent discriminatory firing in public education.”