Penny Kotterman Pres of AZ affiliate of NEA
flHtc 3nfriana (gazette NATION/WORLD Tenure scrutinized Critics say job-security tool protects bad teachers By BEN FELLER AP Education Writer WASHINGTON — The decades-old tradition of tenure protects teachers, often frustrates frustrates principals and has even surfaced as an issue in the presidential presidential campaign. Now tenure itself itself is under review, Tenure guarantees that public school teachers who have this protection cannot be fired without without legitimate cause and due process, perhaps even a court hearing. Almost every state provides provides tenure in some form. Yet with federal law requiring schools to have a top teacher for every core class, more administrators administrators are questioning whether tenure keeps them from getting rid of even a small number of instructors instructors who just are not good enough in the classroom. Democrat John Kerry, the presidential presidential candidate favored by education education unions, wants to make it easier for schools to act quickly against poor teachers, provided that educators are protected from baseless firings. To teachers, tenure is a coveted arid 'often misunderstood right — not a. lock on a lifetime job, but assurance of fair treatment, including intervention for teachers teachers who may be struggling to reach students. "It's protection against the false accusations, against politically trumped 'up charges, against people who insist you must teach a certain way or risk getting getting fired," said Penny Kotte'r- man, a special education teacher and president of the Arizona affiliate affiliate of the National Education Association. She spoke during a group interview Sunday widi The "It's pro- t e c t i o n against the false accusations accusations ..." — Penny Kotterman, president of Arizona affiliate of NEA Associated Press during the NEA's annual meeting. Tenure is most associated with colleges and universities, where prospective professors earn it by compiling a rigorous record of research, teaching and service. In* the kindergarten through high school world, it is typically granted to teachers after two to five years of at least solid performance performance in a district, although debate continues over its value as a sign of quality. Most principals and superintendents superintendents say tenure does not mean teachers have proved themselves to.be very good, and. many teachers agreed with that point in polls by the nonpartisan Public Agenda research group. But Kotterman said that is off the mark. Tenure, she said, is meant mainly as an assurance of fair review, while certification and regular evaluation of teachers teachers are indicators of quality. In the polls, most teachers said tenure protects them from district district politics and losing their jobs to newcomers who could be hired for less. David Sanchez, a kindergarten teacher from Burlingame, Calif., said tenure has helped teachers who were being pushed out of Teachers mixed on tenure issues .A recent poll shows that the majority of public school teachers feel tenure protects colleagues from politics and job loss, but that it does not necessarily reward hard work and success. Does tenure mean that teachers have worked hard and proved themselves to be very good at what they do? Which comes closer to your view about tenure? 14% Not sure 58% No, not lessarily 20% ' Not sure 58% Tenure protects teachers from politics, favoritism, job loss 23% Good teachers don't have to worry about tenure and it's hard to justify when others have no Job guarantee NOTE: Poll of 1,345 kindergarten through 12th-grade public school teachers; margin of error ± 3 percent SOURCE: Public Agenda jobs in retaliation for union activity. activity. Charles Hasse, a fourth-grader teacher and president of the Washington Education Association, Association, said tenure helps because schools have fewer people in supervisory supervisory roles than many em- - ployers, making "the opportunity for misjudgments much greater." School administrators, who are often former teachers, say they understand the point of tenure. But they say it can lead to frustrating frustrating delays in replacing poor teachers, leading some administrators administrators to give up trying. In Oklahoma, trying to remove a tenured teacher can lead to a court hearing, said Ruth Ann Carr, superintendent of Ardmore Public Schools. "You have to have people who are willing to go the distance on those type of employment employment situations," Carr said. "They end up feeling like they're the ones on trial." Teachers union leaders say AP they support expedited reviews but they take issue with the argument argument that tenure protects poor teachers. They say administrators administrators should have no problem making a clear case against those who cannot or will not improve. : States offer legitimate reasons for firing tenured teachers, from immorality to insubordination; not all directly, address teaching perfoVmance. Typically, the teachers said Sunday, states have a process to speed reviews for tenured teachers accused of a major violation on campus, such as drug use. The challenge, critics say, is getting rid of mediocre teachers, not the ones who commit egregious egregious conduct violations. Yet Michael Kramer, who represents represents teachers as general counsel counsel for the Georgia Association of Educators,' says tenure can help the educational mission by protecting protecting strong, outspoken teachers. teachers.