“The era of automatic tenure for teachers is over,” according to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, as quoted in a New York Times article that addresses the high standards now required for teachers in New York City public schools to attain tenure.
In order to be eligible for tenure, a teacher must complete three years on the job. This year, under strict standards, only 58% of eligible teachers received tenure. Five years ago, 99% received tenure, “mirroring statistics in school districts around the nation.” That number has begun to change, largely due to increased efforts to judge teachers based on performance rather than longevity.
Principals in New York City are responsible for evaluating teachers using a four-category system. Teachers are rated as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. The evaluations are based on “students’ test scores, classroom observations, feedback from parents, and other factors.” Only teachers who prove to be “highly effective” or “effective” are granted tenure. Most others are given another year in which to improve their teaching skills before being reevaluated. This year, a few were denied tenure, forcing them to switch school districts or look for new jobs.
“Tenure ought to be reserved for only the best teachers and, unfortunately, as we all know, for far too long, tenure was instead awarded primarily on the basis of longevity. [It was] a joke interpretation of the state law.”
But have these new teacher evaluations helped kids in New York City learn? As of yet, the results of the crackdown are unclear. Some critics claim that the new evaluation system is flawed and caused some teachers to be denied tenure for reasons unrelated to their performance, including failure of the principal to complete a sufficient number of evaluations.
United Federation of Teachers secretary Michael Mendel was one educator to speak out against the changes. He said that while he supports tougher regulations, the New York evaluations are not the answer.
Teachers should be evaluated for effectiveness, but education is complicated. What is the best way to determine whether or not a teacher is competent?
Photo credit: Antony Adolf via flickr