Teacher tenure at issue in improving education

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  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Dec. 22, 2011 3:25 p.m.

    Every time Deseret News publishes an article or an editorial on education in Utah, I feel so unappreciated and get so discouraged it makes me want to leave teaching and go make real money in industry.

    And I am an award-winning teacher!

    Why in the world should we continue to tolerate the attacks, the low pay, the disrespect we receive from students and parents alike (we know where they learn to respect teachers, don't we?), and the continued erosion of our compensation, benefits, and professional status?

    Radical education reformists better be careful. You are reforming some of the best people out of the profession!

  • ksampow Farr West, Utah
    Dec. 21, 2011 11:28 a.m.

    This article and many of thge comments are based on an incorrect assumption. Public school teachers in Utah do NOT HAVE TENURE. Any teacher may be fired for poor job performance. "Career Educator" status just prevents firing for no reason or for political reasons - much like federal civil service laws.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Dec. 21, 2011 12:02 a.m.

    There are places where firing ineffective teachers is extraordinarily difficult. Witness the "rubber rooms" which NYC had until recently, where teachers who the district didn't want to allow to teach because of bad behavior were paid to lounge around (they've since found more productive ways to use these folks but the process for firing hasn't really changed).

    However, this is not the case in most of America and it is definitely not the case in Utah. The firing process in Utah is fairly straightforward, all teachers face regular evaluations, and nobody has the kind of tenure the article is talking about.

    Trying to blame teachers for our education woes in this state is pretty ridiculous.

    Dec. 20, 2011 6:27 p.m.

    "This is a long overdue common sense fix to the problem of SOME teachers being ineffective. No longer will the teachers union protective policies defend the indefensible. While no process for weeding out the bad teachers will be perfect, any will be better than the current system of making it (almost) impossible to ever fire any teacher."

    Absolute Rubbish!

    The process is ALREADY in place. It is not "almost" impossible to fire a teacher. I have witnessed the exact opposite during my career.

    In my 20 years in the teaching profession, I have taught under the leadership of several amazing administrators who have ALL used the orderly termination process currently in place and have removed both provisional and career educators. Some may find it interesting to learn that in two of these cases, the UEA did NOT come to the rescue of a member who was terminated because of the clear documentation presented by these administrators.

    I have also had the unfortunate experience of teaching in the same school as an ineffective administrator who played the "blame the union" game instead of taking decisive action.

    Strong and effective leadership is all that is needed for the so-called "tenure" issue.

  • first2third Elmo, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 6:18 p.m.

    Tenure-status granted to an employee, usually after a probationary period, indicating that the position or employment is permanent. (dictionary.com)

    The writer, Miss Mercedes White, needs to know the definition of the words she is writing about.

    NO UTAH TEACHER HAS A PERMANENT POSITION. Thus, no teacher has tenure.

    Now that we have that clear. The teachers just can't get fired because they tap a student on the leg with a violin bow. There is a process that every school district has for firing teachers. If administrators will not follow through with the process, it sounds like you have an administrator problem not a teacher problem.

    Personally, each school could simply vote on who should be let go. Survey students (secondary), parents (primary), teachers, and administrators, then vote someone off the island at least every 3 years. If there is no one needing to be voted off then don't vote anyone off. Teacher Survivor, just make sure we get paid at least a million dollars.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Dec. 20, 2011 2:28 p.m.

    Strange how it never occurs to the politicos in Utah that one way of improving teacher quality would be to address the abysmal pay scale in your state. As for so-called "tenure," in Wisconsin, there is no tenure; only "just cause" reasons for termination after a three year "at-will" employment agreement. Just cause meaning a teacher who does not perform to the terms of the contract. I'm sure that Utah's "tenure" is similar. It's the job of administrators to evaluate their teachers. If a teacher needs to go, then I'm sure that even the most ardent teacher-basher would agree that legally binding contracts must be addressed. I, for one, am very disturbed by this constant drum-beat against teachers and the institution of public education. It is one of the best social goods that we practice in this country. I suggest that some of you do a better job of informing yourselves of the facts, rather than merely engaging in political gossip.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 1:20 p.m.

    If we're firing teachers because the students are underperforming can we fire parents too?

    Parental involvement is the primary indicator of how well a student will do in school.

    Teachers do their part in molding young minds, but they only have students for a few hours per day. For the rest of that time the parents are in control. If parents don't do their part to inspire, encourage and enlighten their children how do they expect teachers to succeed?

    If parents don't want to bother with their kids perhaps we should convert to an academy style schooling system where children are kept at the school throughout the semester and only allowed to go home during scheduled vacation times.

  • rnoble Pendleton, OR
    Dec. 20, 2011 12:46 p.m.

    I realize I don't know all the facets of this argument, but I do think it would be beneficial, in some cases, to be able to send teachers down the road more easily. I was cursed with a teacher in elementary school who could not seem to explain anything in a manner that I could easily understand. My two oldest boys had the same problem when they also had her. She had been the discussion topic of how to cope and how to encourage in spite of the teacher at many PTA meetings.

    I was not a poor student in terms of intelligence but I did fail in my duty to work hard. I was generally able to get decent grades and subject mastery without learning about good study habits. I finished high school with a 3.83 GPA. My sons were not so lucky. Probably the difference was my wise parents but I really tried.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:57 a.m.

    Wow! Citing Michelle Rhee as an icon of educational reform virtue? I suggest people read more about this controversial self-promoter. Rhee misrepresented her students' performance on standardized tests by some 40 percentage points. That inflated résumé is what got her the job of education chancellor, even though she had only 3 years of teaching experience. Rhee then proceeded to fire hundreds of teachers who, ironically, may have been doing a better job than she had done. Has anyone ever produced evidence of why these "bad" teachers were fired? At best, Rhee's own students tested at 52% of grade level. After her tenure as chancellor, scandal surrounded the revelation that some 96 of DC schools had an abnormal number of wrong-to-right erasures on their tests. Rhee, claiming credit for improvement, handed out awards to these schools, based on those questionable results. The administrators and teachers were never investigated. Despite Rhee's minimal teaching experience, lack of success in addressing minority students and her ongoing policy of misrepresentation, Rhee continues to be the darling of conservatives who promote her as an expert. She continues to be involved in education "reform," at a very handsome profit to herself.

  • The Utah Republican Alpine, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:42 a.m.

    Under current Utah law, tenure doesn't exist. New teachers are evaluated twice a year for three years. After that they're evaluated once a year. That's the law. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell something.

    The Jordan District evaluation system uses multiple data points - dozens of indicators in multiple domains. The results are norm referenced, and low performing teachers lose their jobs. I've never seen an article on it.

    Now here's the sad truth about the market for teachers. The Jordan District web-site currently lists nine unfilled full time teaching jobs that require highly qualified specialists, and serve at risk students. Unfortunately, the available pay doesn't meet the demand, and the classes are being taught by long term substitutes.

    It seems reasonable to suggest that Tenure isn't the root cause of Utah's problem. It might be in some other place, but a thorough evaluation of the system currently in place points to other problems. I've been raised to expect that kind of fact finding and analysis from the Deseret News.

  • Chuck E. Racer Lehi, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:26 a.m.

    Even value-added scores, while better than just using the average score, are not accurate for measuring a teacher's effectiveness.

    As a male elementary teacher, I regularly get dumped on with a bigger share of behavior problems, especially problem boys. One or two are OK, but when several are in the class, it makes the class much more difficult to progress for the others. Should I be blamed for this?!

  • Goet Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:22 a.m.


    You don't fear losing your job because you probably don't have multiple kids at home, a mortgage and multiple bill payments. You're not paying for kids in college or on a mission, nor are you worried about finding another low paying job elsewhere. Almost anything equals teacher starting pay.

    You probably haven't been forced to work after school hours for no pay nor compensation with a threat of firing or a "trouble" mark on your records. You haven't been pink-slipped because of someone's buddy wanting your position. I have. You probably also have a supportive administrator (since they hired you just this year) and not a putz who dictates ridiculous things that hurt education and require extra, unpaid labor.

    Don't worry. Your time will come.

    My suggestion to you is to get out now, while you still can afford it.

    My suggestion to all is to not get into teaching, and if you just must because it is your "dream", then don't stay in Utah.

    That's a Utah teacher's honest view.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:12 a.m.

    To CHS and Goet...I agree. The term "tenure" is probably misused here but in actuality, teachers do have it. You have to get caught with your hands in the cookie jar or being inappropriate with a student to get fired. With that said, yes...there are processes in place to remove teachers or at least encourage them to get out of the profession if they are not doing their jobs effectively enough. They are just not being utilized. Why not? As an educator who has seen enough lousy teaching (and witnessed some great teaching as well) it comes down to administrators who don't want the hassle. Sad to say.

  • Goet Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 11:06 a.m.

    Yet another anti-teacher article from DN based on false premises.

    Utah does not have teacher tenure.

    This entire article is bogus.

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 10:16 a.m.

    Name one school district in Utah that has "tenure."

    Name one school district in Utah that doesn't have in place policies to terminate ineffective teachers that the school board (who is elected by the local constituency) agreed to in negotiations with their management and labor parties.

    Name one administrator in Utah who does not have at his/her disposal the policies and procedure to deal with problem employees, that if followed can result in the termination of poor performing employees.

    I'll wait.

  • ClarkKent Bountiful, Utah
    Dec. 20, 2011 10:09 a.m.

    Oh cry me a river some of you. PLEEEZZZZZ ... do you hear cops, firefighters, hospital employees, utility company workers, etc. crying for tenure and trying to use the scare tactics that some of you are arguing about for teachers. Get real here. I don't buy it and most of America doesn't buy it.

  • collegestudent25 Cedar City, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:56 a.m.

    I am a first year teacher that does not yet have tenure. I do not fear losing my job.

  • Gracie Boise, ID
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:41 a.m.

    It looks as if a few good super men and women are truly on the way to save the day. It's long past time to get serious about corruption wherever it's found. Good teachers need support to do their work, unimpeded by stuck-on-stupid philosophies and policies that dumb down our students and the educational system generally.
    Also, to continually blame parents for lack of better student performance is an unfair accusation a great deal of the time. Parents for generations have been shunted into nonpolicy-making positions, keeping them out of the way of determined progressiveand detrimentalpractices, not allowed to participate fully in fixing perceived problems. With so many two-earner families these days by sad necessity, there's only so much energy (and time to use it) to go around. As a teacher, I know my time with children is a sacred trust to help beleaguered parents achieve hopeful goals for their children.
    This is a complicated situation requiring much consideration and cooperation from all sides. I'm glad to see a revival of serious attention to an inherently broken system.

  • Goet Ogden, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:31 a.m.

    Eliot: not shortsighted at all. It happens quite a bit. Teachers are fired for not following lock stock with the principal or just because of a whiny parent that didn't get their way.

    Administrators would rather have a cheap teacher that does what they say than an expensive one, albeit highly effective, that doesn't bend to their every whim.

  • EJM Herriman, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:29 a.m.

    Here is a reason why tenure is so important. When teachers are unfairly accused, and they are unfairly accused, then tenure protects them. When parents who have never come into a classroom to observe/volunteer/assist take little Timmy's word about the teacher..then tenure protects them. Every profession has due process. The federal government and federal laws protect against discrimination in the workplace so what is the big deal about tenure? There are rules in place in every school district that deal with removal/replacement of teachers when they are not doing their jobs. Administrators have the power and the responsibility to evaluate teachers (using in place guidelines established by school districts) and to remove them if they are not doing their jobs. If the administrator thinks it is too much work to go through the process then get rid of the administrator. But for those of you who want to think that the teacher's union is against this idea you are dead wrong. The UEA is in favor of having a quality teacher in place in every classroom. Just make certain that when you do decide to remove a teacher that there is proper justification.

  • Eliot Santaquin, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:14 a.m.

    The suggestion that during difficult economic times experienced teachers will be fired in order to balance budgets is very short sighted. Administrators, who do not have tenure, must also answer for the performance of their schools. If they fire their best teachers then their schools will surely suffer and they will lose their jobs as well. Senator Osmond's effort to draft a quality bill to address this very important issue is commendable.

  • Rick for Truth Provo, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    By outright removal of tenure, you will destroy the education of Utah's students. You will put teachers, already underpaid and overworked, at the mercy of every administrator. They will become the servants and slaves to their every whim. Many great teachers will simply leave the profession or the state. It is okay to hold teachers accountable, but there must be a very defined path for firing, as well as for retention. Teachers have to deal with out of control students, and parents, accusations must be proven and not alleged. Many times a teacher is given a very low performing student, or a student who misses school. This can occur in the middle or end of the school year. Measuring change and growth in a students progress is more important than the average score at the end of the year.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 8:49 a.m.

    This is a long overdue common sense fix to the problem of SOME teachers being ineffective. No longer will the teachers union protective policies defend the indefensible.

    Teaching is a vitally important profession- for our children, not as a guaranteed job for teachers.

    While no process for weeding out the bad teachers will be perfect, any will be better than the current system of making it (almost) impossible to ever fire any teacher.

    The good teachers deserve our thanks and support, but the bad ones need to be weeded out immediately!

  • sisucas San Bernardino, CA
    Dec. 20, 2011 8:33 a.m.

    Tenure is ridiculous. No other industry has tenure. I really don't understand how it makes sense. Next, teachers should get paid a lot more. 30,000 per year is ridiculous for somebody with a college degree. If we want to attract good people we need to pay them better. As for firing more experienced teachers who make more if budget cuts are necessary; we could easily write into legislation that when bedget cuts are necessary schools must cut teachers by level of performance and nothing more. Then you cut your less effective teachers first and the better ones will never have to worry, regardless of pay.

  • jagfam Kearns, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 8:32 a.m.

    I have a great idea for improving student achievement and it as nothing to do with teachers. Parents. Parent involvement is the greatest indicator for how well a student will do. Numbers for parent Conferences are down and performance numbers are down. Is there a correlation there? Now I know there are some bad teachers out there, but blaming education alone won't help. Look in the mirror parents, are you really taking and doing your part in your children's education? Or is it easier to blame a teacher because billy can't read or write?

  • my 2 cents worth West Jordan, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 8:11 a.m.

    Another thing to consider: tenured teachers (and indeed, many salaried industry and business workers) are often given yearly raises that reflect loyalty and/or good performance. With a 3-5 year contract, when budget cuts come around, the higher paid, experienced teachers will be let go. So yeah, let's implement this. Fewer people will want in, and you'll always have inexperienced, less knowledgeable instructors trying to educate the children.

  • Ms Molli Bountiful, Utah
    Dec. 20, 2011 8:02 a.m.

    I'm 100% in support of government or private business having a simple way to fire ineffective workers. Teachers have tried to convince the public for decades that they should be treated differently. Its time they are treated like any other member of the workforce if they are not doing their job.

  • My2Cents Taylorsville, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 6:14 a.m.

    Tenure should never be rated as better or more deserving in promotions or benefits. There is only one reason to ever consider tenure, in the event of a blanket RIF (reduction in force). We must give them some credit for being handicapped and locked in to their job for putting up with the corruption, deceptions, mismanagement of funds in the education system for 30-40 years of service.

    The best thing to improve education is get government out of it, no more blackmail funding from government to control the class rooms in how eduction is taught, what is taught, and put it under the control of state laws. Abolish federal education funding. Education is not a right of an occupant of this country, it is a privilege of rights as a citizens that tax paying citizens should control and fund.

    A good eduction comes from good baseline controls at local levels of government as it should be. A national education system under the control of government is indoctrination and socialist. And we have entered that domain with all the blackmail controls enacted by the government education funding system to include the NCLB failures creating a nationally controlled education system.

  • CougarKeith Roy, UT
    Dec. 20, 2011 12:49 a.m.

    Tenure is fine "IF", and that is a BIG IF! Certain standards are met! If they aren't, DUMP THEM!!! Teachers should never have JOB GUARENTEE, NOBODY SHOULD! Earn your keep or get out! Same with No Child Left Behind! The system is a JOKE! Kids who fall behind or are lazy should REPEAT GRADES!!! They should FAIL! It's that simple!!! Produce or don't advance, teach and have kids learn or GET FIRED! This can be measured through student testing and class averages on test scores! It's that simple!