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Fighting teacher tenure

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The quality of K-12 teaching in the United States has been a subject of great concern since 1983. Racial and low income achievement gaps continue to be significant problems, and nobody seems to have a realistic solution. Although policy-related reforms have been implemented, the United States K-12 students are still outperformed by their peers internationally. The situation is particularly alarming when African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and low income students are considered.

Different solutions have been tried, but most of them have not worked, although they appear to work. Teacher tenure is now considered the culprit because it protects ineffective classroom teachers from termination. The challenge many school districts face is not only terminating ineffective teachers, but finding high-quality teachers because the public universities and colleges, the major source of public school teachers are not producing effective teachers. According to a number of studies, the colleges and schools of education are less concern about finding the right candidates or developing them according to current realities.

Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of the Department of Education was once quoted say, “By almost any standards, many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom,” and “America’s university-based teacher preparation programs need revolutionary change not evolutionary thinking.” This conclusion is supported by research, but unfortunately nobody seems to wonder whether the tenure question is only a small part of the larger problem, i.e., teacher training.

Teacher tenure has problems beyond the inability of schools to terminate ineffective teachers. The most serious problem is the professional damage it inflicts on excellent new teachers. Given colleges and universities are not considered part of the problem, removing teacher tenure may not produce the desired outcomes if the source of teacher training remains the same.

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