By Rick Amburgey
There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether teacher associations should be involved in negotiations and whether teachers should be given tenure. As a teacher myself, I am naturally pretty passionate about some of these issues. I haven’t hit tenure yet, but I don’t consider it to be the job security safety net that some others do. Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned, but I don’t feel like I need tenure to remain in my current position. I operate on a much simpler principle: if I work hard and meet the needs of my students, I don’t have a thing to worry about.
I suppose there are some upsides to being a tenured teacher, but the cons far outweigh the pros. It is so difficult for a school district to get rid of a tenured teacher that is not effective. According to an article by Glenn Beck from 2007, getting rid of a tenured teacher is a lengthy and very expensive process, a process that often includes going to court and filing appeals. Beck cited a case in New York City where a teacher admitted to sending a student sexual e-mails and even then it took the school district six years and thousands of dollars to fire the teacher. Beck added that in New York it only takes three years for a teacher to get lifetime tenure. There is a review at the end of the three year period, but he cited that 99.9 percent of the teachers that make it through three years are approved for lifetime tenure.
The ones that are really hurt by incompetent teachers are the students. A student that is placed in the classroom of a passionate, enthusiastic and effective teacher will thrive and typically make large gains during a school year. William Sanders at the University of Tennessee has done some extensive studies regarding the impact of a single ineffective teacher on a student. His research showed that a student who has a single ineffective teacher can be set back as much as four years. Furthermore, Sanders research also concluded that a student that is unlucky enough to have an ineffective teacher for three years in a row may never fully recover.
This information tells us that the quality of our teachers will play a large role in the success a student may have throughout their lifetime. That a huge responsibility that is entrusted to school boards, school administrators and teachers.
Tenure should be eliminated immediately to force teachers to do their job or go home. There is no other profession I can think of that provides such a security blanket – and education shouldn’t either.
Imagine if a restaurant told its employees after they worked there for three consecutive years that they would be guaranteed a job for life. After that three year period, what would happen to their level of work? What would happen to their drive to do their best every single day? What would happen to their attitude? The same thing is happening in your neighborhood schools. Not every teacher spirals downward, but there are some. Knowing what we know about the effect an ineffective teacher has on a student, one ineffective teacher is one too many.
Rick Amburgey is a former newspaper editor. He currently teaches in western Kentucky and is assistant editor of Strum Magazine, based in Nashville, TN.
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