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What is Teacher Tenure?


Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hand
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What is teacher tenure?

Teacher tenure, which is sometimes called career status, provides job security for teachers who have successfully completed a probationary period. The purpose is to protect outstanding teachers from being fired for non-educational issues including personal beliefs, personality conflicts with administrators or school board members, etc. Laws pertaining to teacher tenure vary from state to state, but the overall spirit is the same. Teachers who receive tenure have a higher level of job security than a non-tenured teacher has.

Probationary Status vs. Tenured Status

To be considered a teacher with tenure, you must teach at the same school for three consecutive years with satisfactory performance. The three years prior to tenure status is called probationary status. Probationary status is essentially a trial run for teachers to be evaluated and if necessary to terminate through a much easier process than one who has received tenured status. Tenure does not transfer from district to district. If you get a job in another district, then the process essentially starts over. If you decide to come back to a district in which you have established tenor, the process will again start over. Tenured teachers are entitled to due process when they are threatened with dismissal or nonrenewal of contract. This process is exceedingly tedious for administrators, because just like in a trial case, the administrator must show evidence that the teacher is ineffective and failed to meet district standards, in a hearing before the school board. A probationary teacher does not have the right to due process as it stands for a tenured teacher, and it requires the teacher to prove that he or she does meet the standards in which the district has established to keep their job. If a board believes they can replace an adequate probationary teacher with someone better, it is within their right, but they cannot do so with a teacher who has tenure.

Positives of Tenure

Advocates for teacher tenure say that teachers need protection from power hungry administrators and school board members who have personality conflicts with a particular teacher. Tenure status protects a teacher, when a school board member’s child fails their class, from having the repercussion of being fired. It provides job security for teachers, which many believe, translates to happier teachers and teachers who perform at a higher level. Tenure also ensures that those who have been there longest have guaranteed job security in tough economic times even though a newer teacher is cheaper to the district.

Negatives of Tenure

Opponents of tenure argue that it is too difficult to get rid of a teacher who has been proven to be ineffective in the classroom . Due process is a particularly tedious, difficult, and expensive process for all involved. Districts have tight budgets and the costs of a due process hearing can cripple a district’s budget. It can also be argued that teachers who have received tenure status could lack the motivation they once had to perform well in the classroom. Teachers can be complacent because they know they are less likely to lose their job. Finally, administrators are less likely to discipline a teacher who is tenured compared to one who is a probationary teacher even if they have committed the same offense.

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