How long should teachers work before receiving tenure?
- Josh Brown, a middle school special education teacher in California, shares with EdSource his perspective on the current California tenure system, which requires teachers to prove professional competency within two consecutive school years in order to earn permanent status.
- Under the current system, school administrators must decide on March 15 each year whether these teachers will be granted tenure or dismissed; however, there are efforts in the California state legislature to have this period extended to three years rather than two.
- Most states require teachers to have three to five years in the classroom before offering them tenure and a survey of 506 teachers in traditional California schools indicated that 85% of teachers agree that tenure decisions should be made after at least three years.
Teacher tenure has been the subject of many discussions and debates across the country as states weigh the pros and cons. States vary in their approaches to the issue, with some requiring more evidence and classroom time than others before supporting tenure. Some states, such as North Carolina, have rejected tenure altogether in the past decade, moving to yearly contracts. Even in that state, however, lawmakers has recently shifted their position again to allow for multi-year contracts under certain circumstances, though true tenure is still off the table.
Tenure makes it much harder and costlier for administrators to fire teachers who violate standards of ethical practice or are not effective in the classroom, either because they were not prepared in the first place or because they have become complacent about their jobs. It seems reasonable to allow more time for teachers to gain experience before they are offered tenure, especially in states that have a binary approach to hiring decisions.
Teachers need to be developed as leaders who have a positive influence at their school and can fill other leadership roles. Administrators can use professional development to develop teacher leaders or can work with organizations, such as Public Impact to implement models in which teachers oversee and support teachers in multiple classrooms. By doing so, they can help make more of their teachers tenure-worthy, whether they receive tenure in their state or not.