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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Trouble With Tenure

DENVER — Mike Johnston’s mother was a public-school teacher. So were her mother and father. And his godfather taught in both public and private schools.

So when he expresses the concern that we’re not getting the best teachers into classrooms or weeding out the worst performers, it’s not as someone who sees the profession from a cold, cynical distance.

What I hear in his voice when he talks about teaching is reverence, along with something else that public education could use more of: optimism.

He rightly calls teachers “the single most transformative force in education.”

But the current system doesn’t enable as many of them as possible to rise to that role, he says. And a prime culprit is tenure, at least as it still exists in most states.

“It provides no incentive for someone to improve their practice,” he told me last week. “It provides no accountability to actual student outcomes. It’s the classic driver of, ‘I taught it, they didn’t learn it, not my problem.’ It has a decimating impact on morale among staff, because some people can work hard, some can do nothing, and it doesn’t matter.”



Anonymous said...

DUH? Of course when we say that we get attacked and shut down.

Anonymous said...

This guy is great! He works as a teacher for two years and then becomes a principle for six....and then becomes an expert, ladder climber! Way to stick it out for the kids buddy!

On top of that, if you were such a great teacher why did you only spend two years in the classroom? He states we need to pay the "good teachers" much more. Well start doing it buddy because I paid for, and am still paying for, the $65,000 worth of training it took to earn my Master's Degree so I could become a teacher.

I go into work every day at 6:45, and leave at 6 o' clock after I am done with my highly paid coaching gig which consist of $500 per season. This Saturday I get to coach a scrimmage for four hours.
I will work over eleven hours every day this week, and then come in for four hours on my Saturday off to help support the school sports team. Well I guess I forgot the back to school night were I get to stay at school until 8 o'clock.

Yes, I do all of this work for an average of a $480 a week ($568 if you don't count the weeks I am off in the summer even though I spend some of that time at school coaching and mentoring) bring home after taxes pay check! This is after six years of highly effective evaluations. Yes, I understand I get a pension because I get to pay 8% of my salary towards it every year without choice; even though I believe there is a good chance the fund will go dry.

You see at my school most of the teachers are like me. Is there the five percent of teachers that don't work that hard and are protected by tenure.....well yes, but this isn't the problem in education. The problem is that students are never ever, ever, ever, held accountable for their learning and behavior. If they fail at something it is the teachers fault. If they do not learn, let alone master, a subject they are promoted anyway. We force kids to go to school even when they resist to the point of disrupting other students' learning on a daily basis.

In 1964 the High School drop out rate was 27.2%. Today, the drop out rate is 6%. This statistic should tell you one thing....21% of those students that are in the building aren't really that interested in learning all that much from an academic classroom. This isn't a put down because academia isn't for everyone. My HVAC tech, plumber, and bar tender do not need to know Calculus 2, or Macro- Economics.

Point blank, without tenure I wouldn't do this job because of the political jockeying around the education world. Tenure does nothing more then assure veteran teachers that they will have a job next year because without it the school systems would have to offer a much higher starting salary, and mid-range salary for teachers. Your local government can not afford to do this so they "kick the can down the road", so to speak.

I guess, if things get really bad I can go "lay pipe" with my brother who almost finished community college, and only bring home $900 a week straight time. Or maybe work with my father who finished the 10th grade, and made $85,000. Maybe, I would move out to North Dokota and work on an oil rig with one of my best friends making way more then I do now. Man working in the real world has to be so hard! Until then, I am going to keep on teaching and coaching for the kids because I enjoy helping students on a daily basis, even those 21%ers. Thanks for reading my rant, and before you think I am ungrateful for my compensation, I am not. I just know my value, and right now I work a lot for a lot less because I want to make the difference.

Anonymous said...

People teach for the love of teaching. Who said you were going to get rich teaching?