Tenure, no doubt, could use tweaking to help weed out truly bad teachers more quickly. The system, though, does allow even a tenured teacher to be fired after what’s called a 3020a hearing –– it’s simply a long, expensive process that many school administrators are reluctant to undertake.
Here’s the thing: The overwhelming majority of teachers are good, even great educators. They aren’t granted tenure until they’ve been in a classroom full-time for three years. And the tenure probationary period can be extended to four years if an administrator sees potential in a candidate but is unsure whether he or she will make it long-term. Most underperforming teachers are identified early and asked to leave.
Do some teachers eventually burn out? Yes. Society’s first instinct, however, is to fire them. Why do we not ask about the working conditions that cause them to lose their desire to teach? Have they, for example, been teaching for years in drug- and gang-infested schools with little support from parents and administrators?
Without tenure, they could easily be fired, but would justice be served? Clearly not. Many teachers might need a seminar, sabbatical or transfer, but likely not a pink slip.
Teachers are special. They need and deserve special protection under the law.Scott Brinton is senior editor of the Bellmore and Merrick Heralds and an adjunct professor at the Hofstra University Graduate Journalism Program. Comments? SBrinton@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 203. Brinton’s profile and posts can be found at facebook.com/scottabrinton.