The most popular of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three
initiatives set for November’s special election is the proposition
to increase the amount of time required for teachers to earn
tenure. A recent Field Poll showed 61 percent of likely voters
favor this proposition, while the other two initiatives languish
with below-majority approval.
The most popular of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three initiatives set for November’s special election is the proposition to increase the amount of time required for teachers to earn tenure. A recent Field Poll showed 61 percent of likely voters favor this proposition, while the other two initiatives languish with below-majority approval.
The initiative would increase from two years to five years the “probationary” period for teachers. It’s much easier to fire a teacher during the probationary period than after tenure has been granted. We’ve heard quotes as high as $200,000 and time estimates of two years for school districts to dismiss a tenured teacher.
Given the snail’s pace at which most government bureaucracies, school districts included, operate, increasing the tenure period is a good idea. Teachers are where the “rubber meets the road” in the process of producing educated students, so it’s imperative that districts have a sufficient time frame in which to evaluate them.
But while we’re endorsing this initiative, we do so with a caution: it’s not a panacea, especially for the Gilroy Unified School District. With examples of both correctly and incorrectly dismissed probationary teachers as object lessons, it’s important that the district continue to improve its hiring and teacher evaluation processes.
The district needs to make sure it is hiring teachers whose guiding principle is educating students, not using the school system to right perceived social ills, to advance political causes, or to experiment with educational philosophies. If the GUSD hires teachers whose only agenda is to educate students on the subjects they’ve been hired to teach, who demonstrate ability to communicate with students and parents and with a dose of common sense, then many of the issues that have plagued the district in recent years would dwindle.
Further, the district must continue to refine its teacher evaluation process, and must insist that it be implemented uniformly at all school sites. Teachers must know what is expected of them, be told clearly when and how they are and are not meeting those goals and be given a path for improvement when needed. When the goals are not met, there must be consequences. Just because a teacher earns a credential doesn’t mean he or she is fit for the profession.
For non-tenured teachers, the consequences may include dismissal, but there must also be consequences for tenured teachers. Teachers who do not meet their job performance requirements can be reassigned and worked into a peer mentoring program where, hopefully, a culture of excellence can create peer pressure to improve or leave. Finally, that two-year, $200,000 estimate for dismissing tenured teachers must not frighten school administrators from firing tenured teachers who are damaging our students and our district.
Increasing the probationary period for teachers from two to five years is just one step in making sure that Gilroy – and all California public schools – place only qualified, competent, cooperative teachers in our kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.