Friday, July 08, 2011

Tenuous Tenure in NYC

NY Daily News reveals that tenure is being withheld more than it used to be. I believe tenure ought to mean something, so on the face of it, that's not a bad thing. However, it appears the city is not doing its job. I know, for example, that Long Island City High School simply denied tenure to all applicants, and they're not alone.

I've also spoken with teachers who tell me they are not regularly observed, and that tenure decisions are based on a single unannounced observation that took place 8 months into the year. The News story tells similar tales.

It's remarkable that teachers are so regularly and viciously trashed in the media while virtually no attention is given to negligent supervisors. It's their job, in fact, to observe and mentor new teachers. New teachers should also be mentored by colleagues, and I know of many cases where that is ignored. I rarely got any meaningful assistance when I was starting out, and I'm certain many of my colleagues have similar experiences.

There's also the nonsense of test scores being used to evaluate new teachers. Given the idiotic but time-honored tradition of giving new teachers the least desirable and most difficult classes, this will hurt a lot of them.

Despite a statement from some DOE rep in the News, public school tenure certainly does not mean employment for life. It simply means the DOE must show just cause for termination. In a culture where giving prizes to kids, bringing plants to school, using school fax machines or photographing school clocks can be used to charge teachers, we need protection. If the city persists in bringing charges for idiotic reasons, failure is precisely what they deserve, and I wouldn't have it otherwise. In a culture full of administrative corruption, we need to be able to speak out--tenure allows us to be a check on Mayor4Life's nearly limitless power.

Not everyone should receive tenure. If, in fact, people can't do the job, they ought not to be doing it. But it behooves administrators to provide training and support. If they don't do it (and I've personally seen many who don't, or simply go through the motions of pretending), then they, not teachers, ought to be denied tenure, brought up on charges, or sent to do jobs more appropriate to their talents, or lack thereof.
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