I was a teacher in Arizona and tenure was taken away.  Do you think teachers should have tenure or not?I was a teacher in Arizona and tenure was taken away.  Do you think teachers should have...

I was a teacher in Arizona and tenure was taken away.  Do you think teachers should have tenure or not?

I was a teacher in Arizona and tenure was taken away.  Do you think teachers should have tenure or not?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am going to speak from a position of passion on this topic.  I do believe that tenure should be something that teachers earn.  I realize that there are instances of teachers working to get tenure and then getting it to do nothing.  I also realize that tenure makes removal of teachers difficult.  These are all realities that I concede.  However, I believe that the current climate of “teaching hunting” in terms of seeking to identify a scapegoat for why children might not be as successful as they are perceived to be makes tenure all the more needed.  Tenure is something that helps protect the teacher from a variety of threats that are both insides the school and outside of it.  Teachers often have to make difficult calls that are unpopular and challenging in a nanosecond.  Any of these decisions, ranging from assigning more homework to deciding to teach a particular book, can be scrutinized and criticized to no end.  The teacher’s only comfort in being able to learn and professionally grow in an environment that encourages real thought and substantive maturation is tenure.  It protects them from the fear that the next complaint against them will be the last.  With the realities of the Freedom of Information Act as well as greater scrutiny of teachers, in general, I think that tenure is needed.  I do believe that good teachers should embrace the reality that their position is one of scrutiny and one that tenure is seen as a protective privilege and not one of relaxed comfort.  Given the fact that the teaching profession is compensated and perceived on levels that define unfairness and inherently unjust, tenure might very well be one of the few things that are positively intrinsic to the profession.  Yet, I think that all of this discussion is probably arranging deck chairs aboard the Titanic.  The reality is that tenure is wonderful, but with measures such as No Child Left Behind linking school performance and school existence to success on high stakes standardized tests, all teachers, tenured and non- tenured, should act with heightened vigilance.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've taught in public schools where there was a tenure system in place and in private schools where there was no such system.  Neither one impacted how I taught or how I perceived my job.  The argument for and against have been ably discussed in the above posts; for me, it's just not something I care about or even think about too much, frankly.  My observation, though, is that the caliber of teachers as a group was better in the private schools--despite the lower salary structure--not because administrations were quick to fire weak, untenured teachers but because those teachers were there out of a sense of commitment.  Mentoring programs helped the weak teachers improve more quickly, and those who were really not very good or well suited to the profession soon left on their own.  (Who would stay in a place where they knew they were ill-equipped or ill-suited--and making a below-average salary?)  Teachers do get blamed for many things which are completely out of their control; however, tenure seems to me to be part of the atmosphere of fear rather than an incentive for improvement--which it was designed to be.  The system's pretty broke, but I don't think tenure is the way to fix it. 

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hmm, if there were a more cooperative environment between administrations and faculty, I would say that tenure is unnecessary.  But in our current environment where administration mainly wants to maintain their power structures and make sure schools look good with good test scores, etc., coupled with the fact that administrators will always favor those who are obedient and don't kick up a fuss even when they are doing outrageous things, I think tenure can be a really important safeguard for teachers.

The difference is that teachers are currently held accountable as though they had the freedom to do what they think is best.  Yet the majority of decisions about how a school functions, how teachers teach, what they teach, when they teach it, etc., are all made by administrators so you have to be careful about how you hold a teacher accountable for decisions they can't even make.

I agree, it is too hard to fire teachers that stink, but I don't know if getting rid of tenure is going to improve that situation or just increase the speed of the revolving door that is elementary and secondary education.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would take the opposite perspective and say that yes, teachers do need tenure, because education is not like other jobs.  We are responsible for the transfer of knowledge, or at least the opportunity for that transfer, to students, and academic freedom is a serious issue.  More than ever with standardized testing and revisionist state education boards, pressure is placed on teachers to teach a very specific and narrow curriculum.  Failure to meet standards - standards set by people who often are not educators - can lead to financial penalties or termination.  I think that is dangerous to education, and to the teaching profession.  For that reason alone, I believe teacher tenure should be protected. 

It's also important in a democracy to allow institutions to exist where criticism of the government is tolerated and even encouraged.  This keeps government more responsive.  What if I could fire teachers for political beliefs?

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I've only worked in public school systems, and I think the idea that teachers have tenure is somewhat misleading.  We cannot be dismissed, if we have tenure, without cause, but we can still  be dismissed.  In Georgia, as it probably is in other states, a teacher can be dismissed without cause during the first three years in a system.

This is a scary time for a professional teacher, since pleasing an administrator may at times affect grades that are given.  I've worked in systems in which the adminstrators were incompetent, arbitrary, or negligent.  Teachers should not be at the mercy of the whims of these types.

I firmly believe that an incompetent teacher should and can be removed from the classroom. And even with "tenure," this is possible, if an administrator provides the proper documentation.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tenure is really a very controversial topic. The major problem that I see with tenure is that teacher that are below quality may be retained simply because they have tenure. This is certainly not fair. I have seen many teachers let go because they were not tenured and I feel that this may be unfair. Some of these teachers that have lost their jobs have been above average teachers that care very deeply about the quality of education that their students receive. These should be the teachers that should be retained. So basically I feel that outstanding teachers should be  retained and below average teachers should be examined, whether they are tenured or not.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In general, I do not see why teachers should have tenure.  People in other jobs do not typically have tenure so I do not really see why we should either.

We often say that tenure allows us to be free from worrying about getting fired on a principal's whim.  Well, my wife can get fired at her boss's whim and there are millions of other people like her.

I think that the tenure system makes it too hard to get rid of teachers who do not do a good job.  I acknowledge that tenure does insulate us from being fired for no good reason, but I think it also needlessly prevents truly bad teachers from losing their jobs.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The problem with public education is not with tenure. Quality teachers should be rewarded with a little job security. This ensures that a teacher cannot lose his or her job because a school board member's child does not do well in the classroom, and other forms of employment offer perks like seniority. However, where tenure malfunctions is with regard to administration. If a teacher is not teaching well, then this should be reflected in administrator's observations of job performance. Teachers with tenure can be let go with just cause.

epollock | Student

Great teachers don't need tenure. After sixteenyears at my school in Korea, I don't need it. If you do your job as well as you can do it, then the results should take care of themselves. It's not so much as tenure as it is in attitude of the teacher.

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