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Bring back tenure but get rid of ineffective teachers

Many school boards in North Carolina - with Guilford County leading the way - are making it clear that they disagree with last year's decision by the General Assembly to eliminate teacher tenure. Durham and Wake Counties, among others, have also taken up this issue, although they have not decided if they will challenge the legislature's decision in court.

The General Assembly's decision to eliminate teacher tenure was not a well conceived idea and it seems that the Republican majority did a poor job of gauging both the teachers' and public's opinions on this issue. It also appears that not unlike many of their other decisions, this one was a knee jerk reaction to getting rid of ineffective teachers. In essence, the legislators dropped a nuclear bomb on a problem that required a surgical strike. First and foremost, they should have asked the State Board of Education to explain how ineffective teachers are replaced and what mechanism is in place to make sure that teacher tenure is not being abused at the expense of our students.

The academic performance of North Carolina's students ranks in the lower half of our nation's schools. The preponderance of research about effective schools clearly demonstrates that teachers are the most important ingredient in student learning. As such, we can certainly conclude that our students would benefit greatly if we had better teachers in North Carolina . It should go without saying, therefore, that we cannot afford to keep ineffective teachers in our public school classrooms. Tenure, however, is not the problem. The problem has to do with leadership at the school, district, and state levels. If a teacher is not performing to acceptable standards than our leaders must properly document it, make every effort to help the teacher improve, and get rid of her/him if they don't. How hard can it be?

The true purpose and intent of tenure is to make sure that school leaders do not make arbitrary, capricious, and mean spirited decisions about firing their teachers. In essence, teachers must be afforded due process when their performance is being challenged. Tenure, however, should not be interpreted by teachers, or anyone else, as a "job for life." The bottom line is simple - bring back tenure and make sure that our ineffective teachers are removed.

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