Education reform is taking shape across the nation, and for many states, the next wave of change is coming as state leaders push for teacher tenure reform. Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, and New Jersey have proposed to eliminate or dramatically restructure the current form of teacher tenure.
At present, public school teachers receive tenure after a few years of teaching, at which point they can be fired only for misconduct, requiring a hearing for dismissal. As a result, many incompetent teachers are left in the classroom, and schools are sometimes forced to dismiss good teachers. Said Governor Chris Christie (R–NJ):
Tenure has become a job guarantee regardless of performance or success. … Tenure has become the sclerosis that coats the veins of our school system.
Governor Sandoval (R–NV) expressed similar concern, stating, “It’s practically impossible to remove an underperforming teacher under the system we have now.”
The specifics of tenure reform vary across states, but essentially all seek to increase teacher accountability.
Governor Mitch Daniels (R–IN) has proposed that teachers “earn ‘professional’ status based on evaluations tied to student learning.”
In New Jersey, Governor Christie says he will give “every child the right to an ‘effective teacher'” by making tenure “granted and taken away based on teachers’ effectiveness evaluations.”
Similarly, Illinois’s proposed legislation would “link teacher tenure to student test scores” and require that tenure be “renewed every two years based on frequent, rigorous evaluations.”
Governor Rick Scott (R–FL) proposes a variety of changes, including “a new teacher evaluation system … to ensure at least 50 percent of the evaluation is based on student progress,” eliminating tenure for newly hired teachers, and doing away with “last in, first out” policies.
According to The New York Times, Idaho’s law would phase out tenure completely.
Naturally, the teachers unions are vehemently opposed, but as Governor Scott puts it, “Good teachers know they don’t need tenure. There is no reason to have it except to protect those that don’t perform as they should.”
Increasing the likelihood that a child has a quality teacher while protecting and supporting good teachers is a step in the right direction for every state.