New Jersey may eliminate teacher tenure

16 Jan

People become teachers for many reasons. Among the top ten reasons to become a teacher are: 

1. Student Potential

2. Student Successes

3. Teaching a Subject Helps You Learn a Subject

4. Daily Humor

5. Affecting the Future

6. Staying Younger

7. Autonomy in the Classroom

8. Conducive to Family Life

9. Job Security

10. Summers Off 

Because of the recession, many are turning to teaching as a career that might have employment possibilities. Although there may be job cuts as states and some locales cope with diminishing tax revenue, the education sector still looks good in comparison with other sectors. Information about teaching requirements can be found at Education Week Career Community

The issue of teacher tenure is important because: 

There is no shortage of data that show a significant percentage of teachers leave just when they are becoming consistently effective. However, at the same time, too many teachers who have not become consistently effective achieve permanent status, also referred to as tenure. 

The question surrounding teacher tenure is how to protect quality teachers from unfair termination?

What is Teacher Tenure?

A good basic description of teacher tenure as found at teacher tenure. James gives the following definition:


Tenure is a form of job security for teachers who have successfully completed a probationary period. Its primary purpose is to protect competent teachers from arbitrary nonrenewal of contract for reasons unrelated to the educational process — personal beliefs, personality conflicts with administrators or school board members, and the like.


The type and amount of protection vary from state to state and — depending on agreements with teachers’ unions — may even vary from school district to school district. In general, a tenured teacher is entitled to due process when he or she is threatened with dismissal or nonrenewal of contract for cause: that is, for failure to maintain some clearly defined standard that serves an educational purpose.  

Time has a good summary of the history of teacher tenure at A Brief History of Tenure

Education News is reporting in the article, Christie’s Reforms May End Teacher Tenure in New Jersey:

Under Governor Chris Christie’s proposed education reforms, New Jersey may soon see the end of teacher tenure. Administrative and legislative officials confirm that much of Christie’s reforms could become law in the first half of 2012, writes Jason Method at the Statehouse Bureau.

Christie is also looking for more charter schools or private-public schools in urban areas.

State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, head of the Senate Education Committee, believes there is growing momentum for an assortment of reform measures as many school districts could see an end to annual budget votes.

It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, as a union rep, from the principal’s association or a teacher, we’re all talking about what needs to get done to ensure we have great student outcomes,” Ruiz said.Christie declared 2011 as the Year of Education Reform. The governor said the kinds of reforms he wants have been heralded by President Obama and U.S. Education secretary Arne Duncan.

What are the Pros and Cons of Teacher Tenure?

One of the best concise defenses of K-12 teacher tenure is from Cleolaf’s blog at Why K12 Teachers Need Tenure The reasons are: 

A) The teacher shortage is not evenly distributed. High performing schools don’t have the same problems attracting teacher. High paying district don’t have the same problems attracting teachers….

B) This really comes down to the question of why principals might want to be rid of a teacher. I would suggest that any manager would want to be rid of any employee who makes his/her job or life harder. Ideally, this would only be low performing teachers, but that is a fantasy view.

Any kind of rabble rouser can make a principal’s job harder. …Obviously, union activists are already protected by other labor laws.

C) Academic freedom in K12 is not like in higher education, that’s true. But it is still an issue.

A teacher who tries to raise the bar in his/her classes can create no end of problems for a principal. If standards in school have been too low, and a teacher demands more than students are accustomed to, students and their parents can demand enormous amounts of principal’s time. This is a different form of rocking the boat, but can still be enough for a principal to wish to be rid of the teacher.

Principals cannot be experts on everything. Once, when teaching high school English, my principal as a former middle school math teacher. He insisted that I as an English teacher, “not worry about critical and analytical thinking” and “just teach English.” Though he had no training or experience with high school English, he had ideas about what it meant. He did not approve of the fact that I was spending as much time on teaching my student how to reason as on the mechanics of writing. …

Another principal might be an old school traditionalist and insist that English classes only be about books. He might not approve of using film or video to teach about theme, plot, symbolism, character development, story arcs, allegory and any of the rest. But a teacher might feel that this would be the best way for students to learn these lessons….

No, we don’t need tenure if principals can be counted on to make good decisions in the best interests of children. But they are human, and therefore often make decisions in their own interests. Moreover, we have a real shortage of high quality principals, even as we are breaking up large schools into multiple small schools and opening up charter schools…. 

I do not suggest that there are not problems with our tenure system. A lot falls to principals, perhaps too much. Teacher observation and evaluation is not easy, and the tenure process in dependent on principals making good decisions about teachers during those first three years. …And that is why we still need tenure. It takes a series of bad decisions over a number of years for a poor teacher to get tenure. But without tenure, it only takes one bad decision for a good to be dismissed.  

Cleolaf points toward insufficient teacher assessment and evaluation as a prime cause of problems with teacher tenure. Research confirms that good principals are key to high performing schools. Good principals are also the key in Cleolaf’s view to making a tenure system work.

Another view of teacher tenure is found at Teacher Tenure: A Life Sentence for Kids This paper begins with the following case:

In 1986, after school administrators in the El Cajon School District in California

spent years documenting the more than 400 reasons for why high school English teacher

Juliet Ellory was an unfit teacher, the district finally succeeded in firing her. It cost the

district more than $300,000 and eight years of preparing and litigating the case.

According to the overwhelming evidence against her, Ms. Ellory “hardly ever lectured,

gave baffling assignments, belittled students and ignored repeated efforts by the high

school principal to get her to improve.”1 Ellory’s tenure status had protected her from

automatic dismissal. Though stories such as this one do not depict the average K-12

teacher, they are sufficiently widespread to provoke criticism and concern about the state

of our public schools, as well as skepticism regarding the actual benefits of teacher


A key component of reforming teacher tenure is an improved evaluation system for teachers, which focuses on improving traits that produce student achievement.

Teacher Evaluation

The Center has produced a report, which focuses on teacher evaluation. Teacher Evaluation  Proper evaluation seems to be key to both addressing many problems teacher tenure was developed to protect from faulty evaluation of a teacher and to improve the quality of those in the teaching profession. Evaluation is just one component, however. New teachers need a proper induction into the profession and mentors to help them hone their skills and methods of teaching. If problems emerge, teachers need proper training and coaching to progress.

No matter where a teacher is in their career lifecycle, they will be confronting the issues of elimination of teacher tenure and more rigorous teacher evaluation. Increasingly, one component of teacher evaluation will focus on whether students are showing academic achievement gains. The point of contention, which may provoke disagreement between the evaluator and the teacher is how student achievement is measured.

In times of recession, all jobs become more difficult to find and often job seekers do not have the luxury of finding the perfect job. New teachers may find jobs in schools often considered less desirable or schools led by principals who are not considered to be leaders or supporters of their staff. Not all learning occurs during the academic portion of your life’s journey. If one finds that the first job is not the perfect opportunity, then prepare for the time you will find the perfect opportunity. Look for a teacher(s) you admire and who are successful and model what has made them successful. People who are skilled and become expert at their craft or profession will weather whatever change comes along, whether it is an elimination or modification of tenure and changes to the way evaluations are conducted.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

One Response to “New Jersey may eliminate teacher tenure”


  1. Manhattan Institute study: Evidence that ‘value-added modeling’ may be effective « drwilda - September 8, 2012

    […] methods of teaching. If problems emerge, teachers need proper training and coaching to progress.  Marcus A.Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute has written the Civic Report, […]

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