Sunday, June 15, 2014

Should good teachers be tenured? CA decision is unsettling

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion of a ruling by a California judge last week that teacher tenure violates the state’s constitutional guarantees of equal protection.  Jennifer Medina has a tyical story in the New York Times here

When I went to public school in Arlington VA in the 1950s and early 60s, I’m sure that teachers were tenured.  When I substitute taught in Fairfax County and Arlington (2004-2007), I was at the “lowest rung on the totem pole” and there were many senior tenured teachers.  I can say there was a wide variety in the thoroughness of lesson plans left for me (one or two were absurd, down to exact minutes on each item, but some were so vague as to be meaningless).  Some of them seemed to be in their own world.  In middle schools, there could be some placation, such as a promise of a pizza party for the classroom period that got the best evaluation from me.  I don’t think that’s a good idea.
I toyed with the idea of becoming a “real” teacher for several years, as I have detailed elsewhere.  It became apparent that the biggest needs were in the lower grades, and in math the need was mostly drill. 
Of course, there can be a risk that tenure could harm low income students.  But it would seem that if someone has performed well consistently for a number of years according to the right standards, that person has proved herself or himself a good teacher.  The real problems seem to be the right standards, that as we know Michelle Rhee worked on a lot.  It’s a lot more than teaching the test.

Had I continued longer, I would have taught some AP students that I have since met at a couple of local congregations.  They would have known that "I know them."   Some do have outstanding achievements and would be intriguing for some employers even now.  One solution to the college loan problem will be to start work life and independence as an adult while still an undergraduate.

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