The End of Tenure As We Know It

Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probation were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s goal to end “tenure as we know it.”

Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, compared with 97 percent in 2007.

An additional 42 percent this year were kept on probation for another year, and 3 percent were denied tenure and fired. Of those whose probation were extended last year, fewer than half won tenure this year, a third were given yet another year to prove themselves, and 16 percent were denied tenure or resigned.

The totals reflect a reversal in the way tenure is granted not only in New York City but around the country. While tenure was once considered nearly automatic, it has now become something teachers have to earn.

A combination of factors — the education reform movement, slow economies that have pinched spending for new teachers, and federal grant competitions like Race to the Top that encourage states to change their policies — have led lawmakers to tighten the requirements not only for earning tenure, but for keeping it.

Idaho last year did away with tenure entirely by passing a law giving newly hired teachers no expectation of a contract renewal from one year to the next. In Florida, all newly hired teachers now must earn an annual contract, with renewals based upon their performance.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation overhauling the nation’s oldest tenure law and making it easier for teachers to be fired for poor performance.

In New York City and many other districts, tenure decisions are increasingly based on how the teachers’ students score on standardized tests, as well as mandatory classroom observations by principals or other administrators.

Tenure does not afford any advantages in pay or job assignments, or guarantee permanent employment. Its most important benefit is to grant teachers certain protections against dismissal without justification, including the right to a hearing before an arbitrator. Teachers and their unions embrace tenure as an important defense against indiscriminate or politically tinged hiring and firing.

said that he had always supported a “rigorous but fair” process of granting tenure. But, he said, large numbers of teachers were quitting the profession early in their careers, a sign that the city had not yet figured out how to help them succeed.

The teacher “dropout rate” – those leaving the profession is higher than the student dropout rate.  Forty-six percent of all teachers leave the job within five years.  Teachers are leaving faster than colleges are preparing them. We already have a shortage in select fields like Special Education.  The added emphasis on finding qualified science, math and technology teachers (STEM) will place an added burden on colleges. Low pay, the lack of employment protection, poor working conditions increase the likelihood that these people will go into higher paying, industries  rather than into schools.