Tenure laws are under attack from the media, the courts, and state legislature across the United States. Despite these incidences, Kahlenberg (2015) is that tenure laws are still necessary. The author presents his position regarding the need for teacher protection and makes an effort to suggest how improvements can be made to address the significant concerns. This paper aims to review his position, express the effects of tenure, and propose some interventions for refining teacher tenure.
The Necessity of Tenure Laws
My opinion of the author’s position is that he is justified in pursuing his views regarding the issue. First, tenure has had a long history in the country and achieved a massive goal of protecting both teachers and students. Second, an examination of why tenure was developed in the first place can explain why it is still necessary today. For example, the current legal attacks on the law reveal that many lawsuits have a political inclination. The sentiments shared in the media are evidence that many people have varied opinions regarding whether or not teachers should be protected. Therefore, the political issues which necessitated tenure laws remain relevant.
Another key point to note regarding tenure is teacher protection remains as relevant as any other occupation. My opinion regarding Kahlenberg’s (2015) position is based on the reasons that the author provides. The first reason is that tenure tends to strengthen legal protection in civil service, labor laws, and civil rights. The concerns raised by Kahlenberg (2015), including that the labor laws and civil rights do not offer complete protection, are genuine because the civil service is seen as increasingly becoming politically polarized. The second reason is that several other discriminatory issues are not protected by race and gender anti-discriminatory laws. These arguments have shaped my thoughts regarding his position, mainly because one can fully understand where the author’s arguments emanate.
In my opinion, the author’s position stems from the fact that the tenure laws protect those teachers who deserve it. There are possibilities that bad teachers can be fired even with the tenure, as long as the management can justify the action. The author is in full knowledge of the benefits of tenure in a political environment where teachers could be forced to teach politically sensitive subjects. I support the position that the protection offered is not a gift to the teacher and appreciate the observation that tenures empower the teachers. Those attacking tenures are, in my judgment, not aware of the dangers of its elimination or the benefit gained by both the teachers and students. The author’s position is solid and justifiable, considering the facts and arguments given.
Positive and Negative Effects of Tenure Laws
Tenure for teachers has potentially positive and negative effects at the school and classroom level. At the school level, the protection of teachers allows them to work without fear of being discriminated against or being fired without just cause. Teachers are a critical part of the civil service, and the quality of education depends on the availability of qualified teachers. Experienced teachers can maintain their careers, which makes it possible for them to perform better.
Another potential positive effect at the school level is that tenure for teachers helps keep away negative politics and their detrimental consequences for the quality of education. Kahlenberg (2015) argues that patronage hiring and firing were common before the tenure law was developed. Therefore, it can be argued that negative politics are kept away from the public schools, allowing teachers to perform their duties peacefully. Issues of discrimination are also potential positive effects where tenure laws have proven more effective in achieving anti-discrimination goals.
At the classroom level, tenure laws allow teachers to resist external pressures from outsiders attempting to instruct them on how to handle politically sensitive subjects. The teachers can be misused as political tools for selfish goals, which has significant implications for the students. Teacher empowerment makes it possible to pursue neutrality in the classroom and to adhere to the codes of conduct associated with the profession. The quality of education depends on how teachers are allowed to teach, and external pressure can result in poor teaching outcomes. Most importantly, Kahlenberg (2015) argues that teachers receive massive pressure from multiple people and groups, including parents. Tenure laws offer protection against these pressures and allow them to make neural decisions under high-pressure conditions.
The potential adverse effects of teacher tenure include the fact that there is a possibility of protecting bad teachers, which could ruin the quality of education. Such an outcome is felt both at the school and classroom levels. With the tenures offering the ultimate protection, it makes it extremely difficult for the school management to replace underperforming teachers with those who can produce better results. The teachers could misuse the safety for their selfish benefits as long as the school management cannot find a justifiable cause to fire the teacher.
Improving Tenure Laws
The tenure laws can be improved, and strategies developed to connect poor students with great teachers. In my opinion, the suggestions offered by Kahlenberg (2015) are sound and realistic because they address the main question of how poor performing teachers can be replaced. The main concern among the public is that tenure makes it impossible to fire bad teachers. Therefore, the suggestion by Kahlenberg (2015) regarding the two key areas which need to be addressed, the process of earning tenure and the removal of ineffective tenure teachers, is valid and rational. The main purpose of tenure is to protect good teachers from unjustified sacking and not protect bad teachers from being replaced by more effective ones. The rigor of tenure and the possibility to eliminate bad teachers from tenure protection address all the potential negative effects of these laws.
Additional interventions can be suggested to help improve teacher tenure across the country. The main intervention is the development of objective performance metrics and standards by which the teachers are judged. Peer reviews are ineffective and controversial, as explained by Kahlenberg (2015), meaning additional mechanisms are desirable. Teacher performance measures can also be part of the procedure for earning tenure, which makes it possible for the education system to motivate and retain better teachers. The objective measures can include minimum performance levels and codes of behavior. Violations of these standards and rules can result in the removal of tenure.
The second intervention is that it should take longer to achieve tenure. Three years of probation may be inadequate because it could be used by teachers who only seek to secure their occupations. However, tenure should be offered only to those individuals who are dedicated to offering the best services and for longer. As a suggestion, a probationary period of between 6 and 10 years seems long enough to assess the quality, attitude, and performance of a teacher.
The topic of teacher tenure should be approached with the necessary caution because politically charging it would undermine the purpose for which tenures were developed. Teacher tenure is still relevant because of the additional protection it offers to educators. The arguments presented in this paper reveal that the protection has massive benefits both at the classroom and school level. Better procedures for offering tenure and removing ineffective teacher tenure should be implemented.
Kahlenberg, R. (2015). Tenure: How due process protects teachers and students. American Educator, 4-11. Web.