Illustration by Clara Hollowgrass
With all of the controversy surrounding public education, many hold teachers responsible for the disparities in the quality of education between students with different backgrounds, with one of their main issues being teacher tenure.
This is because while teacher tenure was originally put into place to protect teachers, many feel that this protection can easily be given out too liberally to low-performing teachers in districts that already struggle with poor instruction. Increasing job security in teaching positions has the potential to help to bridge the achievement gap and decrease teacher turnover rates.
According to the National School Boards Association, increased teacher turnover is actually one of the largest issues in schools with a larger minority population and higher rates of poverty. This makes teacher tenure an asset to districts struggling with these issues.
Teacher tenure has many upsides, but it isn’t a perfect system. An original purposes of teacher tenure was to protect teachers from false and unjust accusations. However, in some cases tenure can also result in the retention of underperforming teachers due to seniority, as the process for dismissing a tenured teacher is costly and tedious for the district.
That being said, the downsides of teacher tenure are far overshadowed by the benefits that tenure has to offer. According to Public School Review, tenure can give teachers more freedom to cover controversial topics and teach information using more innovative methods without fear of backlash from their administration. The argument that teachers should be punished for the shortcomings of the American education system pulls focus from the root of the problems at the district, state, and federal level.
This freedom of teachers to expose students to difficult subject matter is equally important in both liberal cities such as Berkeley, where sensitive subjects are often discussed in schools, as well as more conservative districts, where teachers may be encouraged to keep their views to themselves.
Moreover, those opposed to teacher tenure argue that teachers are the weak point of the American education system.
A common stereotype is that teachers have easy jobs. However, this narrative disregards all of the hardships facing teachers, particularly in low income districts. Many teachers who may be considered “bad” could improve if given more support and resources.
When used to protect the freedoms and rights of teachers, tenure creates better classroom environments across the country, allowing teachers to serve students to the best of their abilities.