Teacher Union Head Wants to Overhaul Teacher Tenure


Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, announced a plan Thursday night to overhaul the teacher tenure laws that guide how teachers are evaluated and fired. Here’s how the process works currently, generally speaking: A teacher usually spends two-three years in the classroom before becoming a permanent employee. During that probationary period, a teacher can be let go at the end of the year for almost any reason. After a teacher becomes tenured, critics (including Waiting for Superman) argue that it’s difficult to dismiss ineffective teachers. Critics also argue that the current system places too much emphasis on seniority versus quality. In many schools, including Mission High School where I report, that can mean that hard-to-recruit young teachers of color are the first to get pink slips in a budget-strapped state.

Of course, the devil of this overhaul will be in the details. Will the overhaul just increase managerial flexibility? Or will it also implement more effective teacher evaluation systems, using multiple measures? I’m at Mission High School today and can’t review AFT’s new plan, but here’s what The New York Times says about it:

“Teachers rated unsatisfactory would be given a detailed “improvement plan” jointly devised by school administrators and experienced master teachers. Some improvement plans – like maintaining better classroom order – could last a month. Others would take a full school year. The results would be considered separately by administrators and the peer experts, whose judgments would be sent to a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator would be required to decide within 100 days whether to keep or fire the teacher.”

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  • Kristina Rizga

    Kristina Rizga is a former education correspondent at Mother Jones. You can reach her at kristina@rizga.com. Rizga covers education, focusing primarily on how school reforms affect students and teachers in the classrooms, and how policies create or reduce racial disparities in schools. She is the author of Mission High (Nation Books, 2015).