The last several years have witnessed a flurry of educational reform movements. Recently Utah residents – and this blog – have zeroed in on a federal initiative, the common core standards for math and language arts. I’ll have still more to say about that issue in coming blogs. But as readers think about how to improve Utah education within the context of the state’s resource constraints, I think it’s worth looking at what’s happening in other states.
Today’s New York Times includes an article about how New York City has tightened standards for teacher tenure. (Okay, I know that Utah doesn’t have tenure. The law provides for “a reasonable expectation of continued employment.” The Department of Education lists Utah as having tenure. For a longer discussion of this issue, see http://educatingourselves.blogs.deseretnews.com/2011/12/28/teacher-tenure-in-utah/)
But meanwhile, back in New York:
Nearly half of New York City teachers reaching the end of their probations were denied tenure this year, the Education Department said on Friday, marking the culmination of years of efforts toward Mayor Michael R.
Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, compared with 97 percent in 2007.
An additional 42 percent this year were kept on probation for another year, and 3 percent were denied tenure and fired. Of those whose probations were extended last year, fewer than half won tenure this year, a third were given yet another year to prove themselves, and 16 percent were denied tenure or resigned.
The totals reflect a reversal in the way tenure is granted not only in New York City but around the country. While tenure was once considered nearly automatic, it has now become something teachers have to earn.
The article notes some problems with the new system. Attrition among new teachers is high (a problem that has long plagued education, and may not entirely be a problem – in my experience a certain number of new teachers simply discover that it’s not the right career for them.) New teachers need mentoring and support as well as evaluation, a subject I’ve addressed repeatedly on this blog. And new teachers understandably resent the sharp scrutiny they face, when tenured teachers who qualified under the old system get, essentially, a free pass. Maybe that’s a signal that tenured teachers also need periodic, and not just cursory, reevaluation.