Imagine a world where teachers were perfect and students never failed exams. This world is impossible, due to the fact that no one is perfect. Unfortunately, the reality is that some teachers are very bad at their jobs. Many grade unfairly, don’t thoroughly cover the course material, and fail to make their class enjoyable. College students pay good money for an education and expect quality teachers to help them learn effectively. It is for reasons like this that teachers should not be rewarded with tenure after a certain amount of time. This idea of teacher tenure has good intentions behind it, but there are too many negative outcomes that arise from this regulation. Teacher tenure removes incentive to improve teaching, makes it more difficult to remove underperforming teachers, and makes seniority the main factor of employment instead of performance quality.
Teacher tenure started in the late 1900s around the same time as some other labor movements. Some of these movements protested for safer work environments or higher pay. Teacher tenure was an idea that arose in order to protect teachers from being fired for non-work related reasons. For example, before tenure, women could be removed from teaching because they got married, pregnant, or simply because they wore pants (Stephey). These reasons were clearly very irrational and unfair. However, it is now the 21st century and those reasons are very outdated, just like the main reason for teacher tenure. Many teachers take advantage of this gift and slack off once it is given to them.
After a teacher is tenured, it is very unlikely for them to be fired, meaning that they can teach in any way that they please. This could mean that they choose to ignore the course material or make their students read a textbook every day for class. Some argue that tenure allows educators to try new ways of teaching without the fear of being fired. This is a true statement, but it is irrelevant if one is not passionate about his or her profession. It seems as if many teachers become comfortable with their course material and become lazy or incompetent when it comes to adequately covering the necessary information.
If there was no tenure, educators would feel more obligated to perform to the best of their ability as opposed to the bare minimum. Getting rid of tenure would also prevent conflict when attempting to fire an incompetent teacher. Teacher tenure makes it more difficult to fire underperforming teachers. It is a timely process and it also costs much more than it should. This problem became evident in 1986, when it took eight years and $300,000 to fire an English teacher in California. After twenty years on the job, Juliet Ellery refused to improve her teaching methods. School officials documented more than 400 reasons why she should be removed from the teaching community. She stated that “the charges represented nothing more than opinions, exaggerations and lies.” After the long process of removing Ellery, she was only suspended from teaching for one year (Bathen). This is just one of many cases that exemplify the cost and time that comes with firing a tenured teacher.
Unfortunately, many schools refuse to go through this process because of the cost. In some cases, the administration of the school will pay a teacher “under the table” to resign instead of trying to fire them. This is similar to Edward F. Murin’s case when he was bribed to resign so accusations of his poor behaviors would be dropped. A few of these behaviors included strangling a student and denying a diabetic student a soda in class. There were also numerous complaints from parents about racial and abusive behavior in the classroom.
After 22 years of teaching and a ten-year legal battle, it cost tax-payers $1 million to remove Murin from the education world (Bathen). These two examples may be on the higher spectrum of time and money, but they exemplify the extremity of the issue. It also gives an explanation as to why, in most situations, nothing is done to banish the teachers. This means that students receive a lesser education and they can’t do anything about it. Another problem resulting from this law is the fact that seniority is a higher priority than the quality of the teacher. In many circumstances, seniority is the most important factor that determines a teacher’s salary and job position. It is very reasonable that teachers who continue to improve every year should receive raises.
This would make sense that the oldest teachers would then have the highest salary. Of course, some teachers take advantage of this luxury and don’t try to improve their teaching methods. Sometimes, teachers even become worse with age. It is also common that the older teachers have the privilege of choosing their courses. This means that they have the attractive opportunity to teach General History as opposed to American Literacy of War or a much more perplexing subject. Consequentially, students who strive for a challenge suffer with inexperienced educators.
Clearly, there are many issues in regard to this policy. Some argue that tenure gives teachers academic freedom to try different teaching methods; however there are other laws that protect and allow them teach how they please. Although tenure gives educators job security and an opportunity to attempt new things, it also diminishes the quality of education given to students in some cases. Teachers should not be rewarded with tenure after a certain amount of time. This idea of teacher tenure has good intentions behind it, but there are too many negative outcomes that come from this regulation. Teacher tenure removes incentive to improve teaching and makes it nearly impossible to fire poorly performing teachers. Seniority also plays an unfair role in the education community and should also be reevaluated.