Teachers, Tenure, …and our Kids

Since school is starting up again, this topic is timely ….at least in my house.

Most of us are aware of the problems inherent with public school teachers and tenure: once tenured, too many teachers are not fulfilling their basic obligations. Many need to be retrained or simply let go. However, their tenured status makes them almost impossible to fire, and the unions won’t hear of it. It’s all about power: being able to fire bad teachers could eventually lead to a merit system and once that is in place, …bye-bye union.

It’s a sad, sad state which describes our public school system, countrywide.

However, there was a recent article in the New York Times about an unusual occurrence in NYC. Seems that almost half of that city’s teachers didn’t get tenure in their first shot at it. It also appears that, amazingly, this was on purpose:

Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probations were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s goal to end “tenure as we know it.”

Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, …compared with 97 percent in 2007.

An additional 42 percent this year were kept on probation for another year, and 3 percent were denied tenure and fired. Of those whose probations were extended last year, fewer than half won tenure this year, a third were given yet another year to prove themselves, and 16 percent were denied tenure or resigned.

Jazz Shaw over on HotAir.com had something to say about this: 

“This is an interesting trend which may be sending a message to the teachers’ unions, but it’s not a long-term solution. Teachers failing to receive tenure are simply given another season or two to get it or they drop out. The end goal for all of them – and the unions – is still to land tenure so they can stay on indefinitely on the taxpayer dime once they get it.

It’s no surprise that unions would be pushing back against this. We’re talking about a group which also fights like the devil against the idea of things like merit pay, despite the fact that studies show that it works. It’s a culture unlike virtually any other in the nation, where outrage greets the idea that competition for a job should result in the best candidates and that pay might be linked to performance.”

Jazz is right: instead of proficiency or mastery of the job, far too many teachers have tenure as their #1 goal. It has been more of a hot-button topic for the past few years, though, helped along not insignificantly by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey: 


Gov. Christie just signed a teacher’s tenure reform bill into law a couple weeks back, which ended the “job-for-life” thinking he spoke of in the video. This new law is another gigantic step towards reclaiming control of our children’s education, and wresting it away from the unions. We could stand to see similar bills pop up across the country.

THE major obstacle is, of course, the teacher’s unions. Anyone who has worked for the public school system knows how they work. For everyone else, you can get the general idea by watching the film ‘Waiting For Superman’, which was released in 2010. Since it only grossed about $6 million stateside, there’s a safe bet that most folks reading this did NOT see it, though…and you need to.

‘Waiting For Superman’ was directed by admittedly left-leaning Davis Guggenheim, director of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. However, Guggenheim is highly critical of the hundreds and hundreds of “failure factories” which dot the landscape, and he saves special disdain for the teacher’s unions themselves, which are preventing the necessary changes to be made for the betterment of the students.

Trust me: you will never again be able to hear the phrase, “It’s for the children” without thinking of this particular film.

Even though my wife and I don’t have kids in public school (we home school), we couldn’t help but be moved to tears at the plights of these families. The parents’ dogged determination to secure even a decent education for their daughters and sons, and the massive hurdles which keep being placed in their way, is heartrending. In only 90 minutes, you will possess a deeper understanding of just how important these changes in tenure in New York and New Jersey truly are, because the findings in ‘Waiting For Superman’ are being played out, right in front of our eyes.

14 responses to “Teachers, Tenure, …and our Kids

  1. LivinRightinPGH

    Sadly, and I mean SADLY, the teachers’ unions have LITTLE to do with quality of education and MORE to do with “pay for non-performance”, tenure, and retirement plans that cripple school districts. I guess this is where we MUST put in the disclaimer: “Hey, I’m not talking about TEACHERS (everybody knows a good one), but I’m referring to the union.” Still, I haven’t seen many rallies or protests by any teachers’ group railing against the unions and the failing scores of our student bodies.

    Step 1: Get rid of the Department of Education. (What a dismal failure and a “giant, sucking sound” on our tax dollars.)
    Step 2: Institute voucher programs that have been PROVEN to work, such as the one in DC that Obama and his minions killed, to the detriment of the very CHILDREN they hold so dear to “help”.
    Step 3: Pay for performance.
    Step 4: END tenure, at ALL levels.
    Step 5: Parental involvement at every level. A friend has a child at a school in Florida (private, must score at certain levels even for the child to attend) that MANDATES at least 10 hours of on-campus involvement per month from the parent(s).

    And…..Remember…..It’s “for the CHILDREN”.

    NOT for the unions.

  2. All solid ideas, PGH.
    Regarding the DC issue, that was highlighted in the ‘…Superman’ movie. Michelle Rhee’s programs were working, but she wasn’t given enough time to see them through. Her story is just one damning piece of evidence in this entire debacle.

    And the Dept of Education? It is a travesty almost beyond comprehension.

    Seriously, if you haven’t seen ‘Waiting For Superman’, just go get it: the library has it, as does Netflix, Amazon, etc.,..
    Really is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Easily.

  3. Pay linked to performance? Thats just craziness! Almost like students grades linked to test scores to measure how well they are doing in class……..hey, wait a minute…….

    • Funny, Hatfield, …but all too true.

      If you watch the film, they mention that aspect of many of the schools. This is an insidious problem. There are true reformers in many of the schools, and they are creating some incredible results.

      But, they are largely the exceptions, rather than the rule.

  4. LivinRightinPGH

    Ok….since you seem to WANT to get me rolling today:

    A MAJOR issue is a lack of “critical thinking” skills being a part of the curriculum. Too many times, students are “taught to the test”, so that they will score well. But, in reality, what they’re learning are rote memorization skills and not WHY a certain answer is right or wrong. Critical thinking skills give a young person an ability to ascertain the “why’s” and “how’s”, which are essential in their lives now and into the future, when you DON’T have the luxury of choosing a, b, c, or d (all of the above) in a real-life situation.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Pgh.

      One of my oldest and dearest friends (whom you know) has been a public school teacher for years, and she says the very same thing. Kids are taught to the test, but the “why” quotient too often goes missing. This is no way to help kids achieve mastery of a subject. Rote skills in English MAY be fine to a point, but are useless in math, science and even history. Those subjects are impossible without a complete understanding of the “why”. Most kids (and most adults) can’t retain all that info without actually learning “why” something happened.

      Again, I believe there are many, many excellent public school teachers, and many others who WANT to be great. They are shackled to a failed system, and not allowed to realize their and their students’ potential.

      If we could return the control of the classroom back to the schools, and away from the unions; if we could let the schools get rid of the deadwood in the teacher’s ranks (and there is a LOT of deadwood); if we could recognize and reward superior teching talent; then and ONLY then will we be able to start allowing the students to truly LEARN, rather than just to be either pushed along through the system, or have most of the class sink to the lowest common denominator.

      There are plenty of success stories out there in our schools. They need to be emulated, celebrated and replicated, rather than shunned and discouraged.

      Our kids are getting the rawest of deals in their education, and it will doom our nation if it doesn’t get fixed.

  5. LivinRightinPGH

    We’re breeding the next generation of Democrat voters….

    Sorry, but that’s just how I see it.

  6. If they teach critical thinking students will just question everything. There will need to be answers, debates, explanations, reason. Next thing you know there will be human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

  7. “All right, all right! I get the point…………..”

  8. LivinRightinPGH

    Mass hysteria vs Mass stupidity……..interesting choice.

  9. Pingback: ‘Waiting For Superman’ (Watch it. Please…) | Two Heads are Better Than One

  10. Pingback: “Social Justice” called, and it wants your children. Now. | Two Heads are Better Than One

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