No doubt, as the CAP report noted, “Legislated and bargained contractual protections make the process of dismissing an ineffective teacher with tenure prohibitively lengthy and expensive in most states, and teacher tenure evaluation processes remain largely disconnected from teachers’ performance in the classroom or student achievement.”
And there is no question that something is askew when “virtually every single tenured teacher” in a recent study was “rated satisfactory (or higher), and less than 1 percent received a negative evaluation.” This does not make sense.But here is what I believe to be curiously absent in the CAP report.
1. Many ineffective teachers remain in their tenured positions not because of tenure but because of poor evaluation systems managed by either overworked administrators or those who are not very effective at rating teachers.
2. Many tenured teachers are not teaching effectively not because of archaic tenure laws but because administrators have forced them to teach out of field. Almost 50 percent of the nation’s math teachers are teaching out of field.
3. Our own studies of high performing, high poverty schools reveal a number of conditions undermine teachers opportunities to teach effectively. They include:
• principals who do not cultivate and embrace teacher leadership;
• the lack of time and tools for teachers to learn from each other;
• the lack of high quality, specialized teacher education for the highest needs schools, subjects, and students;
• the lack of preparation in working with second language and special needs learners, and
• increasing student mobility as families, due to economic distresses, move in and out of school communities.
The CAP report on tenure reform raises important issues, but by choosing to concentrate only on the behaviors and actions of teachers and not the system as a whole, the CAP analysis is of limited use in shaping better teacher policies. Without a comprehensive assessment, we surely cannot find the best solutions to teacher evaluation, tenure, and effectiveness.