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The Empire

Bloomberg touts drop in teacher tenure

edward reed /

Mayor Bloomberg’s office released another salvo in its teacher performance battle yesterday, when it announced more than a third of eligible teachers this year had not receive tenure thanks to its stricter policy. The tougher standards were announced by the mayor back in 2010, as a move away from the near-universal tenure approval teachers have received in the past, according to the mayor’s office. During the 2006-7 school year 95 percent of teachers eligible for tenure received. This year the number of teachers receiving tenure was down to 58 percent.

“Our schools really embraced the idea that lifetime tenure should be an honor reserved for our most effective teachers, not granted by default,” schools chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. “I am confident this system will benefit both our teachers, through regular feedback and opportunities to improve, and our kids, who all deserve a high-quality teacher in the classroom.”

The Manhattan Institute’s education expert Marcus Winters called the announcement a “very large step forward” for education reform in New York City. “Tenure’s been given as a rubber stamp,” he said. “This shows a real movement in the right direction.”

Teachers are eligible for tenure after three years on the job. A large number of those eligible this year—39 percent—had the decision on tenure tabled. Winters saw this as an encouraging sign. “Just because a teacher hasn’t shown themselves worthy in the first three years doesn’t mean they’re not going to eventually. Drawing out that process over a long period of time makes a lot of sense.”

David Bloomfield, an education professor with CUNY, insisted the announcement was little more than smoke and mirrors. He pointed to the fact that only a fraction of teacher’s were actually flat-out denied tenure, which to him indicated the overall action to be an essentially low-stakes political maneuver.

“All that is not to say that denials or extensions are a bad thing, it's just that the Mayor's announcement is more sizzle than steak,” Bloomfield said in an email. He said the tenure argument doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which is retaining high-quality teachers. He pointed to the teachers passed up for tenure and noted that no reason is given as to why they were passed up.

The United Federation of Teachers secretary Michael Mendel referenced the letter from UFT to DOE below, calling into question the methodology of applied by the Department of Education. "We have serious questions about how the DOE reached these conclusions and concerns that they failed to base these decisions on pedagogy or job performance,” Mendel said in a statement.

Walcott Letter