Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chas Roemer launches attack on teacher tenure

First things first. Tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment, nor is it designed to protect what BESE member Chas Roemer likes to call "poorly performing teachers."

Tenure is an acknowledgment that a teacher has met all of the requirements of the profession and is entitled to due process if challenged.

It is not easy to earn tenure. Tenure is not granted automatically.

In order to be tenured, a teacher must first earn a college degree, then pass a rigorous examination, and then spend three years on supervised probation with regular evaluations. During those three years, the teacher can be released for virtually any reason.

A teacher can only earn tenure in an area of expertise, and tenure is not transferable to another school system.

Obviously, if an unqualified person becomes tenured, that means there has been a serious administrative breakdown somewhere along the line.

Even so, there are ways to determine whether tenure was inappropriately issued. A tenured teacher must continue to earn satisfactory evaluations. A tenured teacher can be fired, but has a right to a hearing to determine whether or not the firing is justifiable.

Now that you know that, check out this story by Advocate reporter Will Sentell, in which BESE District 6 member Chas Roemer urges legislators to abolish the state's tenure law.

Roemer's plan, allowing school principals sole discretion to fire teachers for any reason, is a perfect recipe for favoritism and scandal.

And his logic is seriously flawed. Roemer says that we could theoretically get rid of 2,500 "poorly performing" teachers and use their salaries to give big raises to the top 25% of teachers.

But firing those 2,500 teachers would leave 40,000 students without classroom leadership. Where does Roemer think those kids would go?

Tenure is essential in order for teachers to do their jobs without fear of favoritism or reprisal. Talk of abolishing it is foolish and dangerous for teachers and the profession of education.

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