Streams

Overturning Teacher Tenure

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock (Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock)

A state judge ruled California's teacher tenure program unconstitutional, leaving the practice in other states, like New York and New Jersey, vulnerable to similar suits. Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University and author of Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools  (Knopf, 2013), defends tenure for public school teachers.

Guests:

Diane Ravitch

Comments [47]

Chainsaw from USA

The number of "bad" teachers, and the procedures involved with them, are a relatively trivial part of tenure, and it seems silly and inappropriate, as well as mindlessly destructive, to attack the whole institution for hypothetical failings of its most negative extreme.

The PURPOSE of tenure is to protect good, committed educators from ignorant or biased parents and politicians, who traditionally attack the messenger when inconvenient facts surface. It's that simple. Really.

Jun. 12 2014 11:04 PM
Chainsaw from USA

The number of "bad" teachers, and the procedures involved with them, are a relatively trivial part of tenure, and it seems silly and inappropriate, as well as mindlessly destructive, to attack the whole institution for hypothetical failings of its most negative extreme.

The PURPOSE of tenure is to protect good, committed educators from ignorant or biased parents and politicians, who traditionally attack the messenger when inconvenient facts surface. It's that simple. Really.

Jun. 12 2014 11:04 PM
jc276

It seems to me that the callers commebt about "cultural competence" serves to demonstrate that this is not a teacher but a societal/socioeconomic/cultural problem. If you live in a place that an excellent teacher can't succeed in, perhaps your culture is the problem?? The caller frames this as a deficiency in the teacher which seems to me to miss the problem entirely.

Most ridiculous comment? The guy that says he doesn't believe in the notion of desirable and undesirable schools. Total disconnect from reality.

Jun. 12 2014 05:46 AM
Burning Out

Spend some time working in education with a low income population. It's not the teachers. It's the students. Teachers don't need to be "held accountable" the STUDENTS DO! Enough coddling these lazy bastards. There are not "failing schools" only FAILING STUDENTS. Privatizing public school is not going to turn your little blunt smoking, text messaging, excuses making bum of a child into a Confucian scholar. Only the student can pass their classes. No one can or should do the work for them.

Jun. 11 2014 10:14 PM
PC from SW Texas


Scarsdale was used as an example of excellence upon which can agree, but what makes them truly exceptional is accountability. Dr. Ravitch may be right on the affects of tenure being minimal, but not once has accountability placed on public schools; just the parents. Ask Catholic school teachers if they feel respected.

The vilified parent who are cast aside as dullards and uninterested are dismissed en mass, especially the ones that have had enough and want their children removed to charters. What about someone being accountable to them?

Jun. 11 2014 03:09 PM
Randy Squier from NYS

The issue not addressed regarding tenure is that the hearing officer in dismissal cases must be mutually agreed to by both parties. So, if you rely on these $1000+ per day hearings that take several days to complete, won't the fact that both AFT/NYSUT and the district must choose you, impact your decision. Start by making the hearing officers more independent, chosen by lottery, and the process will be better and fair for both sides.

Jun. 11 2014 01:14 PM
DJ Heinze from New Jersey


Is it politically incorrect to discuss the importance of the student's
home life? That's where it starts. If a child is not given the
encouragement to succeed, can any school ever fill that void? If there
are no books, magazines, educational TV, or simply talking around a dinner
table, how can any child be made aware of a world beyond himself?
The best teachers in the world cannot succeed if parents are not
willing or able to take part in the process of educating THEIR CHILDREN.


Jun. 11 2014 11:04 AM
Rachel Budin

I agree with 99% of Diane Ravitch's assessment of this very destructive decision in CA. However she made one statement that needs to be corrected. Tenure in Higher Ed is not employment for life. It is exactly the "due process" that it should be in K-12. The process takes between 5 and 7 years depending on the institution. Rigorous evaluations are performed every year leading up to tenure. Teachers are not meeting the requirements for tenure are let go before they get to their tenure year. The process of removal should not be "easy". If it is teachers are at the mercy of administrators for issues of academic freedom, teaching methods, discrimination and freedom of speech.

This decision will do nothing to help students. It is union busting, pure and simple.

Jun. 11 2014 10:45 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Dan

What a long, pointless post. Yes, a contract is negotiable but a contract cannot include illegal provisions. NYC teachers DO have tenure provisions included in their contract. If tenure violates the civil rights of students and is therefore illegal then it cannot be included in a contract. BUT THANKS for describing the contract process for us as if we didn't already know and nice try.

@ Lin from NYC

See my other post.

Jun. 11 2014 10:40 AM

Hey Ralph and others, simple question: if "civil rights law would prohibit firing from any job for these reasons," why are men paid more than women for the same jobs? These supposed civil rights laws aren't working in our model of capitalism.

Jun. 11 2014 10:38 AM
erika doering from Brooklyn

I have been listening and I believe that your caller Laurie (?) was remarkable and brilliant in her incredible flipping of the conversation towards the reality of institutional racism and "teachers needing to be culturally prepared" for whomever they are working for - the students in front of them.

I would like to encourage you to follow up with her and find out if she could lead a discussion on this and bring it out further ... the truth is there in her perspective and understanding ... and it needs more air time.

I am a little tired of Diane Ravitch - her being the go-to person as she has a very specific approach and she ignored Laurie's challenge and took the low hanging fruit of "resources" as her focus in her "response".

the subsequent caller was also very interesting on the other side but he is also shares common ground with Laurie. He could be a wonderful co-conversation participant with Laurie:
George ... as "we have to stop sequestering schools into bad and good, poor and strong". My understanding of his point is that this categorization also sidesteps the difficult but critical issues we are facing ... long overdue and slowly sliding down to where we are now re our education of our children - all our children - and the polyculture of America.

Our neighborhood schools represent those neighborhoods and our ideal is that each school supports and grows our children to fluidly, confidently, join the larger communities of our nation - coast to coast wherever their futures take them. That they are not ultimately hopping from one accepting island to another.

thank you for your work, contributions each and every day and consideration of a follow-up future conversations.

Jun. 11 2014 10:36 AM
Lin from NYC

Re tenure: There is a great deal of aging discrimination. I am not sure if this was mentioned in your discussion.

Jun. 11 2014 10:34 AM
fuva from harlemworld

DO from BK -- Not a bad idea at all to change terminology that hang folks up and obstruct progressive discourse.

Jun. 11 2014 10:33 AM
James Langon from Lake Como, NJ

Administrations have three years to evaluate teachers before granting tenure. If they grant tenure to underperforming teachers, that is a failure of administration. Business certainly doesn't take three years to determine whether an employee is a responsible one.

Jun. 11 2014 10:29 AM
Mick from Inwood

I agree with the problem as Marie defines it...a great teacher at Stuyvesant or LaGuardia high school may not be able to handle a classroom in Bed Stuy or East New York. So should that great teacher be moved from the school environment where she is highly effective and put into a school where she will fail? Cash incentives in high poverty schools may help, bu what good does and extra $5000 per year do if you are fired because half the students fail the standardized test after two of your 40 students chronically disrupt the class because they come to school intensely angry due to their chaotic home situation or just to prove their street creds.

Jun. 11 2014 10:29 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Buying into barren socioeconomic concepts and denial pays off in America. Gets you judgeships, etc.

Jun. 11 2014 10:29 AM
Dan

One of the biggest myths propagated by the anti-union crowd is public school teachers have tenure. Nonsense. Public school teachers have contracts which are renegotiated every couple of years. University professors have tenure and not public school teachers. Tenure is designed to facilitate academic freedom. Public school teachers do not have academic freedom.
The school district representing the interest of the community sits down with the teacher's union representing the interests of the teachers and they negotiate a contract. The school board negotiators come from the ranks of the school district's administrators, most of which hold Phds and EDds, and are advised by an attorney who is familiar with the Education Code and Labor laws.
The teacher's union negotiators come from the ranks of classroom teachers, most of which hold BAs and MAs, and are advised sometimes by an attorney who is also familiar with labor law and the Ed code. After completing the negotiations the contract is voted on by the teachers and the elected school board. Elected school boards are overwhelmingly pro business Republicans.
If either side votes down the negotiated contract, then both parties return to the bargaining table and continue to negotiate in good faith. If neither side can come to a negotiated agreement then the school board can lock out the teachers or the teachers can go on strike. A third alternative is to declare an impasse and an outside party comes in to mediate.
The anti-union crowd and their friends in the business community make it appear that the teacher's unions dominated or even dictate the contract. No one is holding a gun to the head of each school board member.

Total nonsense.

Jun. 11 2014 10:29 AM
CR from new york city

Ask her what billionaire hedge fund manager or silicon valley ceo sends their kid to public school

Jun. 11 2014 10:28 AM
DO from BK

Here's my suggestion...

Do away with tenure and simultaneously introduce 'teacher protection rights' - freedom from random firing, arbitration, etc.

Admittedly, this is a reframing...perhaps is a good place to start.

Jun. 11 2014 10:28 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian, why did you say the teachers can't be fired? Ms. Ravitch clarified at the beganning of the segment that in the public schools, tenure just means teachers have a right to due process.

Jun. 11 2014 10:27 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Buying into barren socioeconomic concepts and denial pays off in America. Gets you judgeships, etc.

Jun. 11 2014 10:27 AM

As a former public school teacher, who taught in Japan, China and the USA, I tell you from experience that educators are not valued in this country and the best teachers are fleeing our horrible education system. Thus, our children's level of education is taking a nose dive. Who will pay the price? Our entire culture. Look at the numbers and statistics, they don't lie. Keep on villainizing the teachers and watch our system of education plummet. I now teach at a private school and I won't ever go back to public. Makes me sad.

Jun. 11 2014 10:26 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Ooooh, that caller Bed Stuy Larie (and the next caller) hits it ON THE HEAD. For grown folks. Again, we are treating symptoms...
And we'll continue to, until we GROW UP and confront fundamental issues, by properly learning and understanding American history/socioeconomics, as part of the process Ta-nehisi hints at.

Jun. 11 2014 10:25 AM
Brian from Hoboken

Larry- the process is different everywhere, but with rubber rooms in NyC, the examples brought to light by the lawsuit in CA, and many other places, even in tony Englewood as BOE member and caller Dave said (Hi Dave!), the process is ridiculously long, complicated, and expensive.
Google "rubber room teachers" for examples of horrific teachers who couldn't be fired.

Jun. 11 2014 10:25 AM
Jaime from Ellenville NY

The focus on tenure as the issue for quality education is a misnomer. The problem of class size in problem neighborhoods is far more important then tenure issues. We must accept that to address systemic problems in education it will require an inverse of resources from the formula used today. Some areas may require a generation of class size of 1 to 10 and the providing of the best class rooms and best equipment. As a community stabilizes that class size may go to 1 to 50, with more assistants then teachers, utilizing the availability of technology to provide the bulk of education needs.

The use of the Courts and constitutional rights will create another area where the legislative process will be diminished and undermined, to all off our detriment in all areas of life.

Jun. 11 2014 10:24 AM
John from Manhattan

Diane keeps saying that tenure is simply 'due process’ and then breezes past it. Brian, please take her to task on this and bring up the reasons people oppose the tenure process.

Jun. 11 2014 10:24 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Katie from Huntington

Pfft please enough with the "due process" malarky. STOP Bullsh*tting about something you DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Due Process is guaranteed to all persons in this country by the Constitution. Tenure is not "due process" it is a special protection for Teachers over and above "due process" which is no longer needed. Yes, 100 YEARS AGO a woman might have been fired for getting pregnant but this is not 1914! Puhleeeeze... WHY? Because of the
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government;Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee; and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

Jun. 11 2014 10:22 AM
Joe from nearby

If they care so much about improving educational opportunities for the disadvantaged, why did some of the same billionaires financing this lawsuit spend millions against Prop 30, which would have provided much needed funding for schools? Because what they are really fighting for is the destruction of labor unions. This won't fix what is really ailing our public education system, and it will make a low-paying profession even less desirable.

Jun. 11 2014 10:22 AM
Tee from NJ

The historic arguments Ms. Ravitch raises are just that: history. Times have changed and so should teacher tenure. I served on my local school board for 6 years, and I can attest to the first caller's assertions that under the current system it is so daunting (and time consuming) (and ferociously expensive) to dismiss a teacher even for gross cause that most districts use it as only a last and dreaded resort. (And I speak from experience on that--we had a physically and verbally abusive tenured teacher and it was a nightmare getting rid of him. A nightmare.)

Jun. 11 2014 10:21 AM
Mick from Inwood

In other words, the caller wants to remove teachers at the top of the pay scale so he can hire a bunch of new graduates who will cost less. The reason kids, Black, White, Asian or Hispanic are sent to private or parochial or public magnet schools is the school has greater disciplinary powers over the other students. This reduces disruptions problems in the classroom, drug dealing in and around the school, bullying, and the other myriad problems that have evolved in the regular public schools.

Jun. 11 2014 10:20 AM
Ralph from New york

Dr. Ravitch says that without tenure,teachers could be fired without due process, for their religion, marital status, pregnancy, etc. But this is not true -- civil rights law would prohibit firing from any job for these reasons. The real issue is whether teachers should be protected against being fired for reasons that *would* suffice in the private sector, for example.

Jun. 11 2014 10:20 AM
Larry

Brian from Hoboken- There is an evaluation system in place, which can document problems with below average teachers. Those teachers can be put on a plan to improve or be fired. It's merely a matter of documentation, meetings and observations that many administrators don't want to do.

Jun. 11 2014 10:20 AM

Why aren't our public officials REQUIRED to send their kids to public schools?

Jun. 11 2014 10:19 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Mr. Bloomberg talked of closing schools, firing a large percentage of the teachers, and reopening schools with lots of good teachers. Where are these good teachers supposed to come from? Why aren't they teaching in the schools now?

Jun. 11 2014 10:18 AM
Mick from Inwood

In other words, the caller wants to remove teachers at the top of the pay scale so he can hire a bunch of new graduates who will cost less. The reason kids, Black, White, Asian or Hispanic are sent to private or parochial or public magnet schools is the school has greater disciplinary powers over the other students. This reduces disruptions in the classroom, drug dealing in and around the school, bullying, and the other myriad problems that have evolved in the regular public schools.

Jun. 11 2014 10:18 AM
Brian from Hoboken

Why do teachers need any more protection than what is already in the books? You can't be fired for your skin color in other fields- we have laws to address that already. It can take years and tens of thousands of dollars to get rid of one horrendous teacher.
Why does BL trot out Dianne Ravech all the time? She is a union lackey. She says the same thig over and over. We have spent more and more but its always a "resource" issue? We spend $25k per student in Hoboken and still have a lousy public Ed system. If more of my money is going to be spent, I would rather close down the entire system and spend that money by sending the kids to private schools.
Unfortunately, this ruling doesn't address the overspending on staff and administration. We have superintendents of tiny districts here in NJ making $250k per year, the retiring at age 55 and pulling in a $150k pension and free healthcare for him and his family for life.

Jun. 11 2014 10:15 AM

Let's have a conversation about NJ's practice of forcing teachers to donate money to local politicians to keep their jobs. In my district, in Hudson County, it was referred to as "non-tenure teacher tax". But in larger districts that is extended to all teachers. The Star Ledger did an investigation a few years ago:
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/05/investigation_finds_elizabeth.html

Jun. 11 2014 10:15 AM
Larry

The real problem with education in this country is social inequality. This does nothing to address that. In fact, it trends towards making social inequality worse by degrading the teaching profession.

Jun. 11 2014 10:15 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm glad Ms. Ravitch addressed the meaning of "tenure" in public schools & how it's different from tenure in universities. I was going to ask to have that made clear.

I did hear a report about this case that said the public school's (maybe specifically California's) tenure system made it very hard to dismiss teachers. Could Ms. Ravitch talk about this? How different is it in different states? If that's the problem, why not fix that system instead of throwing it out?

Jun. 11 2014 10:14 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

BRILLIANT DEVELOPMENT! Finally some hope for the children of California! Let's see some action in NYC!

Jun. 11 2014 10:12 AM

First Caller - BRAVO !!!!!

Decades ..... DECADES of failure under these unions and their lefty protecors.... and nothing changes.

Jun. 11 2014 10:12 AM
Ed from Upper West Side

Please ask Dr. Ravitch if useful statistics are available for the correlation of teacher quality with the change in student performance for disadvantaged students as opposed to absolute student performance for disadvantaged students.

Jun. 11 2014 10:11 AM
Dan

@Joe from nearby: Exactly! Other designer lawsuits were the notorious Citizens United and McCuctheon cases.

Jun. 11 2014 10:10 AM
Katie from Huntington

Right on, Joe from nearby.

Jun. 11 2014 10:09 AM
Katie from Huntington

First, you should be explaining what tenure REALLY is. A bad teacher CAN be fired, tenure just makes sure the proper steps are taken--due process--so that teachers can't be fired because s/he is not liked or holds opposing political views to the administration. Secondly, there are avenues for "bad" teachers. Instead of trying to fire them immediately, there are programs, mentoring programs for example, which help "bad" teachers bring out their subject to their students. If those programs don't help, then the steps can be taken to fire the teacher.

Jun. 11 2014 10:08 AM
Joe from nearby

Apart from the subject matter of the lawsuit, this new trend of Billionaires "designing" lawsuits to push through the court system to accomplish goals that they can't accomplish legislatively is a total corruption of our democracy.

The subject matter also is disturbing- as John Hockenberry's interview of Michelle Rhea revealed this morning, the judge simply accepted all the right wing talking points as "fact."

Question: how many billionaires will profit after they finally destry our public school system & the teacher unions? Don't tell me they're doing this out of the goodness of their hearts- the end game, as always, is PROFIT.

Jun. 11 2014 10:05 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Good luck getting teachers to stay.

Jun. 11 2014 10:05 AM

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