Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rethinking Tenure and How It Hurts Our Public School Students

          I am the proud parent of three public school students, two of whom are recent graduates.  As a public school graduate myself, I remember the good and the bad of public school teacher quality.   One teacher stands out as committed and caring, and I can still remember his classes all these years later.    There were others, one Language Arts teacher in particular, who literally snoozed in class.   She was allowed to "teach" until she chose to retire.

         Several years ago, the State Legislature in New Jersey enacted the "Teach New Jersey" statute which allows school districts  to undertake a process, following a full hearing, to revoke the tenure of teachers who are found to be "ineffective" and thus remove them from the school payroll.  As a former student and a parent in a highly-regarded school district, I am well aware of the small but not insignificant number of tenured teachers who are at the low end of the spectrum in terms of their ability and dedication to teaching.    In fact, in my children's school district, parents can and do, at the invitation of the school, communicate with their children's guidance counselors in the spring of every year to inform them of the teachers whom they don't want their children to have in the coming year.   The list almost always includes a small group of tenured teachers who are marking time until they retire.

     It is still the case that a non-tenured teacher can be removed at will by a school district.   This system can have the perverse effect of the school letting go of a well-regarded non-tenured teacher and allowing tenured less effective teachers to remain on staff.  This is unfair to the students and discourages new talented candidates from pursuing a career in teaching.   Parents should be aware and vocal about their school districts using the Teach New Jersey statute as it was intended to be used--to revoke tenure where a teacher is no longer considered effective.    This process will make room for the new candidates who want to join the teaching profession. 

Law Office of Tirza S. Wahrman, LLC
5 Stonelea Drive
Princeton Junction, New Jersey  08550
August 19, 2015

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