Teacher Tenure: A Shortcut to Complacency

Protection from unfair terminations may be beneficial to teachers, but tenure does nothing to promote the betterment of the quality of American education for the students.

We complain about bad teachers all the time. It is perhaps inevitable for academically ambitious students to view our teachers as the perfect targets to blame for our incessant struggle of high school life. Although many of our complaints could be considered as petty and juvenile frustration, some are still much too valid to ignore.

So the golden question remains unanswered. Why doesn’t the school administration terminate the underperforming teachers? Workplaces everywhere fire bad employees and hire better ones all the time, and yet, this procedure of filtering the work force seems to almost never happen in a school environment.

The answer is simple: teacher tenure.

By definition, teacher tenure is a form of job protection that public school teachers can benefit from after 2-7 years on the job. What is hailed as the holy grail of teachers union was initially instated as an effort to protect teachers from being punished for exercising their free speech. In reality, teacher tenure is nothing but an inefficient constituent of the American education system. In order to terminate those protected by tenure, the principal, the school board, the union, and the courts must be involved in a legal strife that is much too costly. Because of tenure, some teachers no longer see the incentive of putting more work than the minimum, thus becoming complacent.

Granted, seniority is a respectable trait for teachers. Their genuine dedication to the occupation deserves much praise and honor from students and administration alike. Obviously, a teacher with ten years of experience under his or her belt is likely to be more professional and knowledgeable in the field than a new teacher. As important as seniority is, however, it is nowhere an indication of superiority. A teacher’s aptness for the job should not be evaluated on how many years he or she has taught, but how well he or she is teaching.

No single individual or system would have the capabilities of accurately judging the quality of a teacher, but numbers and statistics can help to a considerable extent—namely students’ standardized test scores. Ranging from benchmark test results to AP exam scores, these statistics adequately suffice in indicating which teachers are suitable for the job. This data would be more than enough in deeming a teacher inapt for his or her job.

Children should always be prioritized in education. In fact, our very own district’s motto, “Kids First… Every Student, Every Day,” serves as the very reminder that the education system must strive to benefit the students. However, the tenure law is constructed strictly for the benefit of the teachers. It does absolutely nothing to promote the betterment of the education for children. It is the children who are victimized by a teacher’s poor teaching, should that teacher decide to perform inadequately under the protection of tenure.

Education reform is necessary, and it must happen soon. Firing underperforming teachers may be a cruel practice, but it is a necessary evil to maintain a productive environment. It’s surprising, if not embarrassing, to know that our very own American public education system is falling behind on this rather grossly simple reasoning.