Teacher Tenure Reform in Blue

What does tenure reform look like, particularly in a blue state with strong teachers unions?  Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy offered up a glimpse of the future of tenure today as part of his State of the State Address.

Rather than summarize, let’s read from one governor who is jumping to the top of the “ed reform guv” lists.

But we must do one more thing.

 

I’m a Democrat.  I’ve been told that I can’t, or shouldn’t, touch teacher tenure.  It’s been said by some that I won’t take on the issue because it will damage my relationship with teachers.

 

If the people in this chamber — and those watching on TV or online, or listening on the radio – if you’ve learned nothing else about me in the past 13 months, I hope you’ve learned this: I do what I say I’m going to do, and I do what I think is right for Connecticut, irrespective of the political consequences.

 

And so when I say it’s time we reform teacher tenure, I mean it. 

 

And when I say I’m committed to doing it in the right way, I mean it. 

 

Since 2009, 31 states have enacted tenure reform, including our neighboring states of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  It’s time for Connecticut to act.

 

For those watching or listening who don’t know what tenure is, it’s basically job security.  Let me explain.

 

Right now, if you’re a teacher and you have tenure, your performance in the classroom has to be rated “incompetent” before a dismissal process can even begin.  Even then – even if you’re rated “incompetent” – it can take more than a year to dismiss you.

 

And to earn that tenure – that job security – in today’s system basically the only thing you have to do is show up for four years.  Do that, and tenure is yours.

 

The bottom line?  Today tenure is too easy to get and too hard to take away.

 

I propose we do it a different way.  I propose we hold every teacher to a standard of excellence.

 

Under my proposal, tenure will have to be earned and re-earned.  Not earned simply by showing up for work – earned by meeting certain objective performance standards, including student performance, school performance, and parent and peer reviews.

 

And my proposal says, you should not only have to prove your effectiveness once, after just a few years in the classroom.  My proposal says that if you want to keep that tenure, you should have to continue to prove your effectiveness in the classroom as your career progresses.

 

I’m trying to be careful in explaining this tenure reform proposal because I know there are those who will deliberately mischaracterize it in order to scare teachers.  So let me be very clear: we are not talking about taking away teachers’ rights to a fair process if an objective, data-driven decision is made to remove them from the classroom.

 

I believe deeply in due process.

 

I believe just as deeply that we need to ensure that our children are being taught only by very good teachers.

 

So for those teachers who earn tenure – by proving that they are effective teachers – it’s the job of the local school district to make sure that you have every chance to continue to succeed.  That means that if you start to struggle at any point after you’ve earned tenure, the district will provide support and professional development to help get you back on track.

 

And finally, my proposal says that we need to do a better job of recognizing our great teachers.  That’s why I’m proposing to allow local school districts, if they so choose, to provide career advancement opportunities and financial incentives as a way of rewarding teachers who consistently receive high performance ratings.

 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to have this discussion about tenure and I’m confident we can put in place a system that best serves our students, and their teachers.

 

Now let me be clear: in having that discussion, Connecticut will not join the states trying to demonize and antagonize their way to better results. 

 

And we won’t get drawn into making a false choice between being pro-reform or pro-teacher. 

 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I am both. 

 

I’m pro-teacher, as long as that doesn’t mean defending the status quo, and I’m pro-reform, as long as that isn’t simply an excuse to bash teachers. 

Game on, Connecticut!

22 thoughts on “Teacher Tenure Reform in Blue

  1. Hi Patrick,There was always the fear that once politics and politicians entered, what do you call it, The Race to the Top, everyone would lose, and that is what has happened, and that, Patrick, is the scary part (see NCLB Act and NYCDOE). One of the reasons tenure is hard to take away is that the principal hired the teacher in the first place, and he/she looks “bad” when that teacher does not work out, and of course, the paper work, red tape, the whole investigation into a teacher’s performance in the classroom gets messy. You’re talking about a complex evaluation process when the teacher in question falls into a grey area as opposed to someone who is incompetent. Again, Patrick, as an outsider, as journalists and policy-makers are, you cannot have a overall understanding of the situation.Tenure should not be a one-shot deal and then you’re free for life to do as you please. All teachers need to be re-evaluated throughout their so-called tenure. At the same time, I ask you, what about tenure for education journalists, policy-makers, and journalists in general? What standards are they held accountable for? What about inaccurate reporting and stories? A little retraction buried deep in the newspaper. You believe in due process? Are you going to arrest all teachers? Sounds pretty heavy to me. That gets a little scary, Pat. Are you starting to see teachers as “persons-of-interest”?Why are you so negative on teachers? They’re good, then they struggle, but let’s have the district move in and help them with some professional development. What happened in their undergraduate/graduate/in-service/professional development courses along the way? How could this teacher not see the light?Merit pay, pay for kids who score high on standardized tests, or, why don’t you pay them a buck-a-book for each one that they read. This has not been proven to help these situations: intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic motivation. Where do you get your passion from, Patrick?Systematic evaluation is good if there’s such a thing as systematic teaching, which is not always the case. You’re trying g to place a system on a field that tends to be more artistic. Why not go to the video tape? Let’s make it a sporting event.How do you measure teacher effectiveness? What would be some of your “objective” performance standards? How do you measure student performance? What would be your criteria besides tests? How would parents rate-the-teachers? But what about teacher reviews of parents? Where’s their report card? Shouldn’t we rate the effectiveness of standardized tests? How objective are they? Who says so?You’re asking a lot, I think, if you expect kids to be taught only by very good teachers, at least at this stage, because there is the fact that education still does not know how to educate teachers. Should all teachers only teach very good students? Are all parents only very good parents?What say

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