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Tenure is only One of the problems in education

Posted By: Fred Welfare on August 5, 2014
Diane D'Amico briefly addresses some of the issues around education and teacher tenure. The problem is significantly more complex.

Tenure does not eliminate the power to fire teachers by administrators but it does constrain administrator prerogatives. The claim that some teachers fail to effectively implement State and school policies is certainly correct, particularly State Teaching Standards and course curricula. But, the State has left implementation of their policies up to the local district with selective oversight. Teachers sense that the problem their administrators face is between parent pressure opposing school expectations, student discipline, the agendas of regional superintendents or other officials, excessive paperwork particularly concerning budgetary changes, attendance, and compliance with a myriad of local and state agencies. Attention to these areas essentially eliminates the administrators from the halls and classrooms. Therefore, the teachers face survival in their jobs, their (overcrowded) classrooms with their students on their own. Consider the frequently pronounced complaint from teachers that they get no ""support.''

Tenure does simply protect teachers from administrator evaluations and charges. Tenure protects teachers from other teachers. The competition between teachers takes many forms from jealousy over seniority and pay differences, to personal lifestyle choices related to sexuality and gender differences, to racial friction, to ageism, to differences in the quality of students assigned, to the demands of their courses as in the wide difference between teachers of Regents courses and teachers of non-Regents courses or between teachers of those students who will be tested in contrast to students who are not to be tested, and then there is the individual variation in coping with student behaviors whose pressure can often be vicious and brutal. A central example of teacher competition is between departments; English teachers 'think' there subject is superior to all other subjects and disparage teachers of other subjects. Math teachers think similarly. Science is often a contested department in terms of teachers from other departments. The competition between teachers may be hidden but when it is exposed for the serious problem that it is, administrators are powerless to intervene impartially and simply take sides! Without tenure, many teachers would be unable to resist the discrimination and harassment.

Tenure is however raised to an unreasonable power. When analyses of teacher turnover and resignation are compared to the numbers of teacher who complete a 30 year career with (or without) a pension, the ratio indicates that relatively few teachers make it through, so tenure does not really protect the teachers in the long run. Many teachers are unable to meet the rigorous standards for a truly highly qualified teacher. Higher education and teacher recruitment does not graduate the necessary number of education majors from their bachelor programs. Many teachers enter the profession in the mid-life with scant educational credentials for their subject area and next to no education in teaching methodologies and classroom management techniques. Consider how many teachers have to teach into their late 60's to earn a pension. A Masters degree is a one year program!!! But, this parallels the administrator preparation programs which are often evening or weekend programs just for the certification. When the ratio of administrators to teachers in each district is calculated, one can only wonder what all of those administrators are doing. The key question is whether these programs actually prepare adults to competently 'run a school.'

All administrators are required to have teaching experience, therefore all administrators were teachers! A popular notion among left union activists is that the tenured teachers 'run the school' and thus they hate administrator interventions, oversight, evaluations, observations, etc., that is, the input from teacher qua administrators. Often, union activists organize a teacher-clique to resist administrator imperatives. In response, administrators recruit selected teachers as quasi-administrators: deans, programmers, senior advisors, COSA and provide overtime positions. Thus, each school consists of teachers who are union activists and teachers who are pro-administration. It is this 'game' which creates a denial of duties and subsequent resistance to sanctions of free-riders: teachers who half-step and make no serious effort while complaining about everything in one emotional mode or another. Administrators are responsible for forming a team of professionals who successfully reach yearly achievement goals but the historical results of their efforts has led to restructuring: the closing of schools and their re-opening under a new policy program with a different set of teachers. This end run around tenure: the expectation that one can only be dismissed for ""cause"" is a process where teachers are harassed without protections from themselves and several other groups in society is a problem of mismanagement from the beginning of the beginning in the University to the politicization of schooling at each school.

If I was in military training for Special Operations, I would understand that I am undergoing training to survive combat. Is there any remote parallel analogy in education?
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 Tenure is only One of the problems in education by Fred Welfare on August 5, 2014
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