Tenure

A response to 60 Minutes’ report on The Equity Project Charter School.

As a future teacher, tenure means very little to me. I probably won’t start out as a great teacher, but I am 100% confident that I can turn into one. For this, I know that I will have job security.

I started my study on the Maine public school system at age 5 when I entered kindergarten. I remember the black Batman t-shirt that I wore when I said goodbye to my mother on the first day of class as she walked out the door, leaving me to my subjects. Explaining to the teachers why I never did my homework was difficult, but over the next 13 years I recorded some of the best anecdotal evidence on 50+ teachers.

My least favorite teachers were the ones that had not changed their lessons  for years. It seems that the most important characteristic for a teacher is a willingness to improve. I know that I can do this, so I know that I will be a good teacher. To me, all tenure seems to do is keep around bad teachers.

Tenure is “guaranteed permanent employment.” Aren’t the good teachers going to stay employed anyway? Michael S. Mcpherson and Morton Owen Schapiro say, “it has long been defended as an absolute necessity for the defense of an open intellectual inquiry” (Mcpherson and Schapiro, 1999). Or as Randi Weingarten, head of American Federation of Teachers, states in her interview with Katie Couric: “it gives them confidence to say things that sometimes they feel like they couldn’t.” But isn’t that what wrongful termination suits are for?

60 Minutes’ report showcases The Equity Project Charter School in New York City. The school has a strong culture of being the best it can possibly be and therefore pays its teachers $125,000 a year and does not offer tenure. Founder and principal Zeke Vanderhoek said that if he doesn’t get the school’s test scores to above average in 4 years, he should be fired.

Mcpherson and Schapiro, (1999). Tenure Issues in Higher Education. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13, 85 – 98.

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