Weaponized Teacher Tenure

Jun 8, 2018 by

The percentage of police officers who successfully complete probation during the normal qualifying period is extremely high and has changed little or at all in recent years. That period of time, deemed appropriate to ensure job-worthiness, is generally conceded to be working well.
The equivalent of passing probation for New York City teachers has historically led naturally to the granting of tenure. The minimum period of time required to achieve this milestone is several hundred percent longer than is needed by armed cops to pass their probation. Until recent years, teachers typically were recognized as having earned this security in percentages similar to the rate that police officers continue to be granted completion of probation.
Why has there been a unique and extremely dramatic drop in the proportion of time-eligible teachers actually getting their due tenure? Is it because the standards of evaluation have risen or that teachers are singularly not as worthy as they used to be?  Neither. It’s that tenure has become a “political football” unrelated to its original meaning.
Principals, taking their marching orders from the chancellor-proof, permanent inner bureaucracy of the Department of Education, have the authority to delay tenure and have exercised that authority out of motives entirely unrelated to the merits of teacher performance. They tantalize, tease and torment some of our best educators, by holding tenure over their heads and approving it only after the teachers have demonstrated personal unconditional loyalty, even at the expense of their contractual rights, if they conflict.
Justification for the deferral of tenure is invariably couched in pedagogical terms that bear no trace to the true motive of retribution, but the actual reason is understood beyond a doubt by the principals and their victims.  In recent years, principals have been indoctrinated to see themselves as absolute rulers. That is particularly sad and dangerous, because on average they are far less trained, gifted, and practiced in leadership than in the past when they had to share power.
What can teachers do when faced with a tenure crisis of this kind?  Sell their soul?  Stand their ground?  Should they fight back in the name of honor, integrity and fairness? What if they win that battle but still lose the war, which is pretty much a guarantee?
Ron Isaac


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