Fixing Tenure Doesn’t Mean Ending It

There’s been a lot of talk lately about teacher tenure. This summer’s ruling in Vergara v. California has sparked conversation about whether tenure laws have swung too far toward protecting teachers, at the expense of the educational rights of students. Similar lawsuits have been filed in New York, and there’s the possibility that other states will follow suit.

Here’s what nearly everyone can agree on: Students deserve a quality education, and teachers deserve reasonable job protections. The debate is whether or not tenure policies can support both of those ideals.

We think they can and should—but right now they're not, and like California, other states may soon face a court order to change. In the rush to fix tenure, some will argue that it should be just scrapped altogether.

We disagree. Teachers deserve due process. But we believe school systems can strike a more reasonable balance between job protections for teachers and the educational rights of students with common-sense changes to current laws and regulations.

Today, we’re releasing a short paper, Rebalancing Teacher Tenure, with eight recommendations for what those changes should look like, including:

  • Lengthening the tryout period and linking tenure to performance
  • Streamlining dismissal hearings and focusing them on students’ interests
  • Ending tolerance for egregious misconduct, but lowering the professional stakes for teachers in other cases, so that a dismissal from one school doesn’t mean a teacher loses his or her license altogether

We know that addressing the issues with tenure won’t magically solve all the challenges facing our schools and the teaching profession, but a healthier tenure system will help put the focus back where it should be: on supporting and keeping the vast majority of our teachers whose performance is not an issue.

We’d like to hear what you think. Does it make more sense to think about rebalancing tenure than ending it? Would our recommendations preserve the key elements of tenure while reducing instances where ineffective teachers continue to work with students? Read the paper and share your thoughts with us.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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