New York's Teacher Tenure Lawsuit

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Following the California decision against teacher tenure, a New York advocacy group has filed a similar lawsuit. Leslie Brody, Wall Street Journal Greater New York education reporter, talks about the issue and the differences between tenure in the two states.


Leslie Brody

Comments [33]

mike from long island

not fair to compare teachers in the NYC schools with suburban schools, as far as student testing goes. when you have to teach in schools where there are 10 yr old rapists and guns in school bags are not out of the ordinary, its going to be near impossible to get the kind of test scores politicians/adminstrators are asking for. look at suburban schools in " bad " districts. the stats are comparable to the city stats. same mindsets, same scores . Schools reflect the communities, the communities do not reflect the schools.

Jul. 08 2014 07:28 PM
Nora from Brooklyn

No one works harder to defend students' rights to a sound basic education than teachers do. We are one factor among many for why our students succeed or fail in school. We are not compensated well and as a result job security really matters. The courts are not an appropriate method for raising concern about teacher tenure. The result is that all teachers feel attacked, we all lose professional credibility and, as the retired principal mentioned, public opinion is distorted. Teachers are students' greatest allies.

Jul. 08 2014 04:51 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Joyce

To reiterate, those who feel that teaching K-12 is a cushy profession should take a leave of absence from their own and try their hand at it, and then they will be in a firmer position to criticize.

Jul. 08 2014 11:03 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Once again the Constitutionally protected right to "Due Process" goes undefined and employed in public sector union propaganda. Unions love to trot out "Due Process" when what they REALLY MEAN is JOB SECURITY. We all have "Due Process", it's guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights.

What Unions want is to protect their members (cash flow) from termination and that is what "Tenure" does. It protects the highest paid union members (biggest dues payers)from termination under the system the rest of us work under, Employment-At-Will. Private sector employers may fire us because they don't need us anymore, to increase profits, for any reason other than those prohibited by law (like race/religion/sex etc.)and that can and does suck but it also can and does allow businesses to survive and continue to pay some of its employees even if some are fired. When public sector unions require "Just Cause" in order for management to terminate they basically make it impossible for the employer (in this case the taxpayer) to operate in an cost efficient way. Enjoy your endless tax increases!

Teacher love to push the idea that they are "Professionals" but real "Professionals" do NOT have JOB SECURITY. Do you know of an ATTORNEY, DOCTOR, SCIENTIST or MBA who has a guaranteed job for life? Right! That is because "Professionals" are expected to perform and compete, not to merely exist and do the minimum required by law to escape a "just cause" termination.

If you want Teachers to have LIFETIME JOB SECURITY via tenure accept that the public education system will ALWAYS be costly and inefficient with low standards and a reform proof core of teachers protected against "just cause" termination by a deliberately difficult and time consuming bureaucratic "hearing" procedure. Great!

Jul. 08 2014 10:55 AM
g from staten island

Mr. Lehrer,
Perhaps radio ashow host swho doesn't know the difference between the NYC ATR (absent teacher reserve) and the "rubber room" (and confuses it during his program) should be reevaluated for his ability to continue to host the radio show. You owe the audience an apology and a correction.
The ATR is a "holding pattern" for teachers who are excessed--their job at their current school no longer exist. For example, a music teacher whose job disappears after 24 years because her principal closes the music program in that school will be an ATR until she is permanently hired by another school. In the meantime, she works in the district wherever she is assigned.

The "rubber room" is a holding pattern that the NYC Dep't Of Education uses for teachers is removes from a classroom--lets say during an investigation for possible discipline. Former Mayor Bloomberg was supposed to speed up the process and allegedly did away with the "rubber room"--yet we still hear if its existence. The "rubber room" has nothing to do with the Absent Teacher Reserve.

It is amazing how many senior( i.e. very experienced) teachers, that have a higher salary (which comes out of the Principal's school budget), are suddenly rated "unsatisfactory" after 20+ years of service. Without tenure (due process)every senior teacher is at risk or suddenly losing her job.

Without tenure (due process), teachers of all ages who do not kowtow to principals' and other administrators' whims, could find themselves rated "unsatisfactory". Without tenure/due process, consider the atmosphere that will be ripe for shenanigans and corruption.

Jul. 08 2014 10:48 AM

How has the progressive de-funding of Public Education - shutting down schools removing arts & music classes, removing recess exercise, the "donation" of public school spaces to private schools (charters) without either $$$ compensation or mandated access of charter resources to all on-site students affected pupil & teacher performance????

The failures of Rhee in DC & the Gates/Silicon Valley Common Core profiteering have shown that those who have not taught for even a semi-career, say 10 years, haven't really taught enough to know how to "reform" our national education non-system.

The Finnish system not only makes the teacher more professional & more respected, but it's built on educating until the student has learned enough to learn more on their own. As long as our education non-system is tied to arbitrary time lines, despite pupil needs, we are doomed.

We have not built a system to succeed, we have built a system as short-sighted as Wall ST's quarterly reports "successes."

Jul. 08 2014 10:42 AM

"under-payed" seriously? not "underpaid"? And we wonder why we have a problem educating kids. duh.

Jul. 08 2014 10:40 AM
Harry from nyc

I like the due process point

100% correct.

This is the process that administration has to follow to fire a teacher aka tenure.

Who is it that wants to have the power to point and fire? is it the people getting into the education business and privatizing schools? or the looney parents that dislike a teacher in the school?

How does giving the power to point and fire to the business man or looney parent benefit the students?

Jul. 08 2014 10:39 AM
Sharon from Manhattan

p.s. To Clem:
Part of the problem with CA tenure is that teachers earned it after only 18 months, or so I read in the NYTimes. That is really much too quick.

Jul. 08 2014 10:37 AM
Bob van Pelt from Brooklyn

The danger of these lawsuits lies in the definition of a "bad" teacher. Everyone will agree that abusive teachers and ones that have a documented case of misconduct against them, should be removed. And they are. The Post recently headlined: "They Can't be Fired." Then they went on to document many cases where teachers were fired.
What is a "bad" teacher? If a parent feels like their child isn't learning enough, or isn't learning the "right" things, or in the "right" way, should they be able to start a lawsuit? What are these "bad" things that are going on, other than the aforementioned obvious situations? Is it about test scores? Is it about curriculum? Is it about style? Lack of training? Please discuss.

Jul. 08 2014 10:36 AM
Fiengold from NJ

I think we've moved well beyond the point of under-payed teachers. In suburbia 100k+ is the norm, even for elementary school and kindergarten teachers. That of course does not include pension and medical benefits which makes them paper millionaires considering what one would have had to sock away on their own to achieve the same outcome. They should as, someone else stated, undergo the same rigors as any professional. With the shear quantity of applications for every available opening, I think we should be able to expect it for what we as a society pay each year to educate our children.

Jul. 08 2014 10:34 AM
Sharon from Manhattan

Clem: I earned tenure after 3 years of satisfactory evaluations. Evaluations were based on classroom observations--6 per year from my department AP and the principal. (I was hired in 1996.)

These days, tenure required 5 years of good evaluations (I think), and submission of a binder of materials. My young colleagues have spoken a lot about presenting data in their binders this year. I'm not sure if they also had to submit curricula. (We have to submit curricula to our departments anyway for courses we teach.)

Jul. 08 2014 10:34 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Joyce

Then drop architecture and start teaching. You will be welcomed with open arms :)

Jul. 08 2014 10:33 AM
Joyce from NYC

to jgarbuz from Queens

Sorry -- I am an architect. Average pay is about 75% that of a NYC school teacher. It would help if you knew what you were talking about.

Jul. 08 2014 10:31 AM
Matt Helme from Old Bridge

Sounds like Republicans using the race card against unions.

Jul. 08 2014 10:30 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Joyce

Sure when our society becomes willing to pay the taxes required to PAY professional teacher the same as doctors, lawyers, top engineers and other professionals. Alternatively, the public has the option of sending their children to private schools provided they can afford to do so.

Jul. 08 2014 10:29 AM
dba from nyc

Seniority is essential because principal will want to hire a new and cheaper teacher than one who costs more money due to years of service.

Jul. 08 2014 10:29 AM

where's the regular education reporter? sorry, but this person is terrible. please, get the regular reporter back.

Jul. 08 2014 10:29 AM
Joyce from NYC

AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!!

Only 1% of teachers are bad teachers.

I wonder if that is also the case with engineers, doctors, etc.

Jul. 08 2014 10:29 AM

Tenure is earned by a process. Please discuss what a teacher needs to do become tenured.

Jul. 08 2014 10:26 AM
Mindy Kornhaber

Your guest is not being wholly accurate in saying that the aim of many of the teacher evaluation systems is just to show the needle is moving at least a little in the right direction. Some of the teacher evaluation systems are linking c. 50% of teachers' evaluations to students' scores. The upshot of this emphasis is that kids will still have unequal educations. Those who easily pass the tests will have 'good' education. Those who don't pass the tests readily, e.g., in schools with high poverty and high percentages of English language learners will have lots of test prep.

Jul. 08 2014 10:22 AM
Joyce from NYC

How about teachers become PROFESSIONALS (you know, like doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects)

This means:

Doing well in a good college
Getting into a grad school that is highly demanding and very difficult to get into (instead of a joke)
Doing well in grad school
Getting a Masters in one's specialty (you know, like a Masters in math if you are going to teach math)
Taking a licensing exam that is HARD and few pass the first time
Serving as an apprentice
Taking ongoing courses and a relicensing exam.


No wonder the good teachers drop out -- who can work with idiots

Jul. 08 2014 10:21 AM
Sharon from Manhattan

1) The guest needs to elaborate on why it's "hard to document" whatever makes a "bad" teacher deserving of being fired. I do not believe this. Tenure only means there is a process that must be followed before a teacher can be fired. Teaching is not like fund-raising: it's not so easy to measure effectiveness, so I hope the general public understands why a process (not iron-clad employment) is fair. The problem is that administrators don't take on the process. (I have been a NYC teacher for 18 years, and I have many anecdotes.)

2) Regarding having a quality teaching force: the problem is the ease of becoming qualified to be a teacher. True, there are many, many steps. But teaching programs are not rigorous enough, and there is no negative effect on the colleges if they graduate people unfit to teach. It should be harder even to be accepted to a teaching program. Then we would have a more professional teaching force, and perhaps we would be trusted as well.

Jul. 08 2014 10:21 AM
Catherine from New York City

At the beginning of your program, you said that principals can actually take only the teachers they want. That actually wasn't true until a few years ago. Before, teachers could "transfer" to other schools and administrators really didn't have a choice if there was an opening. Many, many schools are still saddled with subpar teachers (with tenure), due to this system.

Also, even though there aren't large scale layoffs systemwide, schools are still faced almost every year with excessing a handful of teachers, and they never have the opportunity to choose the best ones to keep.

Finally, despite the UFT's argument that tenure is a "process", it truly is in effect a job for life....unless something extremely egregious happens.

Jul. 08 2014 10:20 AM
BK from Hoboken

Well the "resource" comment didn't take long to pop up. In my town, we spend more than $24,000 per student with middling results. This is similar in many other urban districts in NJ. At some point, we are throwing good money after bad if we continue to bump up the money being spent on these schools without trying something/anything new! For $24k per student, I say shut down the entire Hoboken BOE and send the kids to private school elsewhere.
More to the subject at hand, tenure is not a perfect protection of course, but it is in reality, given the high cost and years it takes to get a bad teacher fired.
Completely unrelated- this website has been very glitchy recently on mobile devices.

Jul. 08 2014 10:20 AM
Sarah C. from Brooklyn, NY

I have been a special education teacher in the NYC system for 8 years. Getting rid of tenure won't change the quality of education for students in failing schools and who live in poverty. Properly funding education and strengthening communities and parent groups will improve education.

If a simple, one-size-fits all solution such as removing tenure would solve our educational problems, by all means, take mine away. However, there is much more at stake here. I believe this is an easy, media friendly platform for the groups in New York and California rather than taking a position to overhaul our tax and funding streams for public education.

Challenging tenure won't make much of a difference in a few years anyway if teacher retention continues to fall due to lack of funding, poor working conditions and negative perceptions of teachers within communities.

Jul. 08 2014 10:19 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The primary purpose of K-12 is to safely warehouse these little creatures so that their parents can go to work or otherwise get some respite from them. The secondary purpose of the elementary school system is to offer these little people an "education" so that they can become useful, employable, corrigible members of society who will peaceably conform to most social norms.
The job of someone who has to oversee a brood of them every day, and must care for their safety and well-being while penned up with them all alone, while also preparing "lesson plans" amuse and inform them and keep them enraptured and safely out of trouble is not an envious task. Those who think it is should try it. They should go through all of the testing and trials and extra college courses and then see what it's really all about before they level their uninformed ignorant criticisms.

Jul. 08 2014 10:18 AM
Kim from Queens

When are we going to bring in Principals to this discussion? I worked in a Title 1 school in Crown Heights for 5 years which is still an underperforming school because of a terrible Principal. In my 5 years there, I was only observed three times. We never had professional development sessions and the Principal was always absent. Her management philosophy was to scream at teachers over the PA system during instructional time. On the other hand, I now work at a school which is one of the Top 10 in NYC and I have an inspiring and engaging Principal who is innovative, uses data to drive instruction, technology, and is open minded on how we teach - my students and I have soared; I was rated highly effective. We were displaced for 3 months after Hurricane Sandy and 87% of my students still scored 3s and 4s on the NYS ELA exam. It's really all about leadership - Principals who are visionaries and lead their staffs will succeed. The ones who remain in a closed office, refuse to improve morale and develop teachers will fail. We need to stop blaming teachers since it's the leadership who creates the atmosphere and direction of the school.

Jul. 08 2014 10:18 AM
Laurie Mark from NYC

How do you quantify if a teacher is good or not? Isn't it more like the definition of pornography: "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it."

Jul. 08 2014 10:17 AM
dba from nyc

Bloomberg closed hundreds of low performing schools, which removed hundreds of tenured teachers, replacing them with new and young teachers in reopened small schools. Yet, not much has changed in terms of student performance.

Jul. 08 2014 10:14 AM
Karen from NYC

Untrue that principal can't get rid of teachers - they merely "excess" an unwanted teacher - I,e. claim her services aren't needed. Happens all the time.

Jul. 08 2014 10:09 AM
Larry from Brooklyn

Tenure at the university is not a guaranteed "job for life" as stated by Brian (and so many others). There are clear written reasons for which a tenured faculty member could be fired. Please stop perpetuating this falsehood. Since college faculty (unlike teachers) are involved in creating and evaluating curricula and debating with administration over the merits of programs, etc. tenure gives faculty footing against administrators. Also note that faculty at private colleges are not unionized thanks to the Supreme Court so there's no other protection for them.

Jul. 08 2014 10:09 AM
dba from nyc

"Reformers" and educrats like to declare that the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of our time. Yet, where is the outrage that high needs students are subjected to a revolving corps of inexperienced teachers such as Teach for America or NYC Teaching Fellows who abandon the classroom after two or three years because it is a lot of hard work for not much money ? No affluent community would tolerate this. High performing schools are staffed by tenured teachers. Ironically, Obama just lamented that too many teaches in high needs schools are inexperienced. If high needs schools are hard to staff with experienced teachers, they should be incentivised at the outset, not punished by nonsensical rubrics, value added statistics that have been proven to be invalid and unreliable measures, data points, or test scores. An experienced teacher does need an excel spreadsheet of data analysis to understand student needs. But that would cost too much money. The "reform" movement's agenda aims to maintain this rotating teacher corps and thus avoid the costs incurred by tenured teachers’ higher salaries and the accompanying benefits. The most reliable predictor of student outcomes is family income and education. There are too many external factors that lead to poor student outcomes in high needs schools. And for charter school proponents, when charter schools can be prohibited from counseling out problem students who are then thrown back to the district, then we can compare charters to district schools that do not enjoy that luxury and must attempt to educate every child.

Moreover, with the Danielson rubric now being used to evaluate teachers in NYC, along with 40% test scores, tenure has become a moot point since two consecutive ineffective ratings initiate termination proceedings. Why would teachers want to teach in high needs schools under such conditions? Finally, how about evaluating administrators who, thanks to Bloomberg's bogus principal training Leadership Academy, have barely any classroom experience with which to evaluate teachers?

Jul. 08 2014 09:57 AM

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