What's your position on teacher tenure? Love it, hate it, take it or leave it?Does it really work?  Is it window dressing? Has it served its purpose and now it's time to move on?  Who does it...

What's your position on teacher tenure? Love it, hate it, take it or leave it?

Does it really work?  Is it window dressing? Has it served its purpose and now it's time to move on?  Who does it benefit: teachers or administration?  Neither?  Both?


Expert Answers
hi1954 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tenure has indeed kept some incompetent and lazy teachers comfortably in their jobs, but it has also protected many instructors from being fired for personal reasons or for their opinions about political or social issues.  The real problem in education is not tenure but the content of the textbooks (way oversimplified even in high school), controlling attitudes and the lack of competence among administrators, and the inanity of programs such as No Child Left Behind.  That program has left American schools teaching students how to pass standardized tests, but not much else.

Under the "No Child Gets an Education" act the whole point of education is to do well on the yearly standard tests.  Teachers are graded by how well the students do, not by whether or not they are competent at their jobs; the schools which do not improve are considered "failing schools," although once a school has maxed out the tests they can't "improve" and so are considered substandard.

The students themselves are held in no way accountable for refusing to learn, their parents are not held responsible for their attitudes toward their children's education.  No matter how good a school is, or how great the teachers are, if a student doesn't want to put forth the effort they won't learn.  If the parents don't demonstrate that education is important, the students won't think so.  The home environment is far more important than the school.  You can legislate that students must be in school, you can put books in their hands, but you cannot make them learn, nor can you make their parents care about the future of America.

Tenure has been abused by many of the type of teachers who go into education simply because they get a summer vacation and can get by with doing little actual work, but for teachers who demand excellence from their students, who take public stands on important issues in our society, or dare to stand up to corrupt local and school officials, it is of value.  I can't imagine any really good, caring Special Ed teacher surviving the parents and administrators without tenure.  Ideally, tenure benefits the students, and through them our society in the future.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am guessing this is mostly in response to the idea of tenure in the high school or lower teaching ranks, because my feelings about tenure at the university level are somewhat different.

It certainly does what everyone says it does, help keep crappy teachers in their jobs.

I like what a friend of mine used to say, he'd be glad to give up his tenure for an extra 40% or so in salary.  The fact is, job security is one of the reasons that people choose to stay in teaching.  Give it up, a lot more people (likely some of the best) will leave because they have no protection from administrators or anyone else with a grudge or just with the feeling that they don't agree with a teacher's ideas or principles.

If you were to actually have schools where everyone was concerned with helping students learn, the change in the relationship between teachers and admin might make the idea of tenure obsolete.  But in its current form, this atmosphere is rare as can be and I tend to think that tenure is the lesser of two evils.

copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are certainly teachers who are poor at their jobs but are to able to keep them simply because they have tenure. One of the reasons for tenure may be because the school systems are very political. Tenure keeps people safe but I agree that teachers who are not good at their jobs should be replaced.

I'm not sure schools are any more "political" than any other large company, organization, or institution. Unfortunately, the simple reality is that the priorities of "management" and those "on the front lines" don't always line up neatly.

As pink slips are being handed out to non-tenured teachers like candy at the moment here in my neck of the woods, I question the equity of tenure. But I'm left equally uneasy about other methods of fairness in teacher evaluation as well.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that tenure can make teachers lazy.  Those who feel "safe" don't always work to improve teaching techniques or change things in the best interest of the students...mostly, they continue to do things the way they have always done them because they worked once.  New technology and using cell phones, blogs, social networking systems, etc. to improve teaching methods only increase student learning and participation. 

On the other hand, there are many great teachers who continue their own education so that their students benefit.  These teachers who teach because they love students and they are passionate about their careers should have some security in the field.


copelmat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The devil, of course, is in the details as tenure rules can vary from state to state, and in some instances from local district to local district.

I think our traditional understanding of tenure has served its purpose and it is time to move on to something more reflective of the needs of our current context. The attitude of "I don't have to worry about anything now, I'm tenured" needs to go. Ineffective teachers need to move on and find another line of work and we need to remove any barriers that obstruct that idea. Unfortunately, finding an equitable and fair method for defining and identifying ineffectiveness is far harder than it may first appear.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Never had it, never needed it, never wanted it.  It is our system, though, and I'm sure some excellent teachers have benefited from tenure programs as much as some incompetent teachers have. As with anything, the particularsmatter, and the particulars are too varied to deal with individually.  On the whole, I find it difficult to believe this is the best system of evaluation for a profession that, by its nature, is so diverse and individualized.

I liken tenure to labor unions--sometimes good, sometimes bad, generally outdated and out of touch with many of today's realities.

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being that I work in a school and am tenured, I appreciate it.  I am also aware of the negative side to its practice.  Many teachers who become tenured begin to provide a lesser quality of instruction once they reach the stated year.  It is a sad state of affairs, but I am not opposed to reviewing its practice.  I do not think we should employ teachers based on student performance because there is more to student performance than what happens in the classroom. 

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that tenure is outdated and seems to help ineffective teachers keep their positions.  Outside of the education realm, it is quite unusual to have anything like teacher tenure, and I think that education officials need to consider why tenure is not popular in successful companies and try to implement more modern procedures for retaining effective, qualified teachers and getting rid of teachers who simply show up to collect a paycheck.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me a teacher competing for tenure resembles a woman begging to be married and, once gets the ring on her finger, completely changes because she gets too comfortable. How scary is to fall in the lap of comfort! In a society that is shifting so fast and radically, these are not days to "take it slow". Certainly I would look into what constitute tenure and whether we can just waive it to some people who disservice the organization as a whole.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Boy, all of the above posts have great points. New teachers certainly suffer when they are laid off because tenured--and often incompetent--teachers can't be fired. On the other hand, I've dealt with some incompetent and vindictive administrators who would clean house if tenure was not in place. The bottom line is that in most other jobs, quality work and productivity are what employees are graded on--not the length of their stay.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that tenure for most teachers really has no effect on how they perform their jobs. If you have gone into teaching for the right reasons it won't make any difference to how you do your job. Most teachers who are in it for the wrong reasons are not going to stay in one district long enough to get tenure anyway. Also it is not impossible to remove a tenured teacher if they need to be removed.

smflannery eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a difficult question because there are so many factors involved.  I have tenure but I also consider myself to be a good educator so with or without tenure I do not fear losing my job.  On the other hand the state I live and work in is an "At Will" state.  An employer does not have to give a reason as to why he/she is firing you so in this case tenure is a wonderful thing to earn.

booksnmore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my experience it's just another instance of administrative red-tape. I'm not sure it benefits anyone. I've seen really effective, new, non-tenured teachers raked over the coals in a process designed to intimidate and I've seen tenured teachers do the bare minimum and stay employed because of their status. I've never been able to figure out what the point is.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I do not understand why teachers, more than other people, deserve or need to be protected from bosses who would fire them for personal reasons.  It seems to me that people in every job are vulnerable to being fired for no good reason.  So why do teachers need tenure when tenure ends up keeping so many poor teachers in their positions.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are certainly teachers who are poor at their jobs but are to able to keep them simply because they have tenure. One of the reasons for tenure may be because the school systems are very political. Tenure keeps people safe but I agree that teachers who are not good at their jobs should be replaced.

rsm1935 | Student

While tenure can be justified as protection against lazy or corrupt administrators seeking to protect or hire coaches its disadvantages clearly exceed the benefits.  Meeting today's urgent challenge to improve our educational system requires that we identify, support and reward excellence in teaching. We must also quickly get rid of the dead wood in the classroom.  Those "teachers" who are unmotivated, lazy, in a rut, or just marking time until retirement are harming our kids and our nation's future. If we are to prepare those in the classroom for competition in 21st century global society, tenure must go.