An educator's view: Lengthen time for teachers to get tenure; don’t take it away
At present, Minnesota Republicans are backing a tenure-destroying bill that would require public school districts to implement local layoff policies based more on a teacher's effectiveness than seniority.
At present, Minnesota Republicans are backing a tenure-destroying bill that would require public school districts to implement local layoff policies based more on a teacher’s effectiveness than seniority.
But let me show you how difficult it can be to get an accurate picture of a teacher’s effectiveness, especially if it is based upon student performance.
During many of my 35 years as a high school English teacher, I had the honor of teaching advanced-placement English. At the end of the year, advanced-placement students had to take an exam. If students attained a score of 3, 4 or 5, they received, in most cases, credit for college freshman English.
Quite often, well over half the advanced-placement students attained a score of 3, 4 or 5. However, I had a few very successful years when all but one or two students attained a 3, 4 or 5. Then again I had a couple of depressing years when only one or two students attained a 3, 4 or 5. Was it my performance in the classroom that caused these fluctuations?
A report prepared by Minnesota Measures 2015 - called, “Preparing For and Entering College” - showed the college readiness of students who took the 2014 ACT test. More specifically this readiness report showed how many test-takers were college-ready in all four subjects: English, math, reading and science. Only 39 percent of all Minnesota students who took the 2014 ACT proved to be college-ready in all four areas. Only 10 percent of black students proved to be college-ready in all four areas while 24 percent of Asian students, 13 percent of American Indian students,
19 percent of Hispanic students, and 34 percent of biracial students were college-ready in all four areas. Were ineffective teachers responsible for such horrible statistics?
As unsettling as the college-readiness report was, Minnesota students, on average, outscore the nation on advanced-placement exams.
Furthermore, according to statistics presented by Minnesota’s Office of Higher Education, “Minnesota (students’) average composite test score on the 2014 ACT test was 23 - the highest in the nation. Minnesota has led the nation in average composite ACT scores for nine consecutive years.” Are high-performing teachers causing this remarkable success?
I say again that how effective a teacher really is can be difficult to determine.
So what can be done to ensure that Minnesota’s teachers are effective and high-performing without taking away their much-needed tenure?
To stop ineffective teachers from continuing in the profession, I am in favor of lengthening the time it takes for a teacher to receive tenure. It takes at least five years of teaching before a college graduate becomes a competent teacher. I would be in favor of not bestowing tenure until a teacher has been on the job for five years. Then, having had proper guidance and after he or she has learned to perform well and be effective, it’s time to receive tenure.
So, Republicans, if you want to create a huge shortage of college-trained and -degreed teachers, take away tenure protection. College students are wise. They’re not going to enter teaching if they think there’s even a small chance that their job will be terminated for no cause when they are age 45, are supporting a family and are finally at the top of the salary schedule.
It is my opinion that what Republicans are doing is a perfect example of education “reform” as pushed by the uninformed. Stop the nonsense, and let’s try to do something positive for education instead.
Joseph Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, lifelong Iron Range resident, regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, and retired educator who taught English and college writing to grades 7-12 for 35 years at Biwabik and Mesabi East schools.