Why The California Tenure Decision Is Wrong and Will Hurt Disadvantaged Students


AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. 

Earlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Rolf Michael Treu held that California's teacher tenure system violated the state constitution. Treu's June 10 decision in Vergara v. California has been widely praised by education "reformers," up to and including President Barack Obama's worst cabinet appointment, Education Secretary Arne Duncan. But the decision is a disaster, a caricature of "legislation from the bench" by an inept judge.

The line of precedents cited by Treu to justify his extraordinary intervention are, in themselves, unexceptionable. The California courts have long held that under both the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the state constitution education is a fundamental right that must be provided on equal terms. This doctrine is salutary; indeed, like Justice Thurgood Marshall, I think the Supreme Court erred by not reading the 14th Amendment the same way. 

The question, however, is whether this doctrine is applicable to these cases. There is one huge difference between this week's case and the previous holdings. Previous precedents involved cases where poor school districts were being treated differently under state law. In Serrano v. Priest I and II, the issue was one of poorer school districts receiving fewer resources, and Butt v. California concerned a school district closing six weeks early because of a lack of resources. These were clear cases of equal protection violations: Poor districts were treated differently than affluent ones in ways that almost certainly had deleterious consequences for the education of students in the former. 

In this case, however, there's no formally unequal treatment; the tenure system created by statute in California statute applies to all school districts. For most of the conservatives cynically praising Treu's decision, this should be the end of the discussion; to their thinking, as long as districts are treated the same there's no equal protection violation. But conservatives are wrong about this. A statute that formally treats people or groups the same can violate equal protection if the effect of the law is discriminatory. Education policy provides a particularly vivid example of the vacuity of the conservative premise that formally equal treatment is sufficient. Reading Brown v. Board to require nothing but the elimination of de jure discrimination in pupil assignment has allowed far too many local educational systems to be both separate and unequal in practice. 

So there's nothing wrong with a disparate impact analysis per se. But if Treu's opinion were to fulfill its premise, he needed to make the case that California's tenure system disproportionately burdens the educational opportunites of the poor. And it's here that his amateurish policy analysis manifestly fails to deliver the goods. 

The logic of Treu's holding runs like this:

  1. California's tenure system makes it very difficult to fire poor teachers;
  2. Poor teachers tend to be concentrated in districts with less affluent students; and therefore
  3. California's tenure system unconstitutionally discriminates against poor students. 

Treu's opinion provides relatively strong evidence for the first two points, but his logical train derails completely on point #3.


My strong objections to Treu's analysis here should not be construed as a full-throated defense of California's tenure practices. For reasons explained by the Atlantic's Dana Goldstein, California's tenure system is not one I would design if it were my job to craft educational policy for the state of California. But the 14th Amendment does not require optimal policy; it requires nondiscriminatory policy. And Treu's assertion that the tenure system discriminates against poor districts fails to address crucial "compared to what" questions. Treu considers the downside of tenure: making it more difficult to fire incompetent teachers. But there are also upsides: most importantly, job security makes teaching a more attractive profession to talented potential teachers. As Goldtsein observes, "For high-poverty schools, hiring is at least as big of a challenge as firing, and the Vergara decision does nothing to make it easier for the most struggling schools to attract or retain the best teacher candidates." Treu simply assumes, not only without evidence but in the face of logic and reason, that there is a group of highly skilled teachers waiting to fill the least desirable teaching jobs in the California school system, despite the fact that these jobs aren't particularly remunerative and, thanks to Treu, now must also be insecure. 

The imaginary group of skilled educators chomping at the bit to take the most challenging teaching jobs—even though Treu has made the jobs even less attractive—isn't the only can opener his poorly reasoned opinion assumes. He also seems to think that the identification of incompetent teachers is a straightforward process, and in the absence of tenure protections school systems would be run as pure meritocracies. In practice, however, evaluating teachers is a difficult, labor-intensive job, and giving administrators unfettered discretion is likely to lead to cronyism, discrimination, and people rewarded based on their willingness to suck up to superiors rather than their talent and initiative in teaching.

These questions aren't purely hypothetical; Treu's shaky causal logic could be tested in a number of ways. As Treu points out, many states provide less or no tenure protection to teachers. A serious opinion would then consider the question of whether these states are less likely to concentrate poor teachers in poor school districts. He might also consider whether teacher tenure has led to poor educational outcomes in other national contexts. But Treu's opinion is the opposite of serious; it just uncritically takes the shoddy arguments made by reflexive opponents of teacher's unions at face value and, even worse, reads them into the state constitution.

Educational opportunities in the United States remain tragically unequal. But clumsy, unjustified judicial policy-making will make these problems worse before it makes them better. And the California state constitution does not require the California legislature to agree with Michelle Rhee


The motivated reasoning on display here is ugly and sad. We know Scott loves all things union. And Michelle Rhee is a favorite target when the punched hippies punch back. But really, Scott, you are a shame to lawyers everywhere.

Why on Earth would the hiring and firing of teachers be any more prone to your parade of horribles than any other position? If tenure is necessary for teachers, it's necessary for every position in local government that is hard to evaluate, which is all of them.

The defenders of teachers want them to be treated and paid like professionals in every way except evaluation and termination. In those areas they declare teaching to be a sort of ineffable magic that defies rational analysis.

High stakes testing may not be the answer, but tenure is an obvious part of the structure that ensures that poor kids get left behind. Teachers will never get paid what they deserve while arguing that it is impossible for anyone else to understand why they deserve it.

What an interesting precedent.... Would this work the same way?

1. California's charter school law makes it very difficult to close substandard charter schools;

2. Substandard charter schools tend to be concentrated in districts with less affluent students; and therefore

3. California's charter school law unconstitutionally discriminates against poor students.

The good assistant professor is terribly wrong in his argument. He states:

"In practice, however, evaluating teachers is a difficult, labor-intensive job, and giving administrators unfettered discretion is likely to lead to cronyism, discrimination, and people rewarded based on their willingness to suck up to superiors rather than their talent and initiative in teaching."

This invalidates his entire piece and demonstartes he knows nothing of what he would choose to comment on.

Evaluating teachers is not difficult at all. One can sit in a classroom for less than a half hour and know if this is a person who is doing well or not. Do they use proper English? Do they ask interesting, thought provoking questions? Do they know their topic well, and if so, how well? Can they engage the students?

If you can answer those four questions you have it figured out. If the answer to any one of them is 'no' you have a teacher you need to be rid of. That is just how difficult and labor intensive and time-consuming it is.

Where some challenges may lie is how to develop teachers who do know their subject but just need some help in engaging their students. In order to do so you have to have teachers who are interested in improving. If not, there is another sign someone needs to go.

That is one of the problems with the tenure system in most public schools districts. Someone gets locked in and they are set, no need to improve or make much attempt to do anything to engage and educate children. "Just give me my classroom, leave me alone and give me my check. Students, well, I am a great teacher and if they want to learn they will. Besides, none of them care anyway, they just want to stare at their cell phone screens. I can't do anything about that." I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this type of response from someone who has been stealing from the system - and ultimately the children - for years.

If they cannot engage the children, send them away. How does one do so? By constantly improving and increasing their subject specific and professional knowledge base. Just as knowledge is not a fixed quantity, neither are students, or their needs. Each student is an individual with different wants, viewpoints, thoughts and needs. An effective teacher can bring them all together in a classroom setting, find interesting ways to bring the necessary knowledge to them and creative ways for them to express their learning of it.

Inner city and high poverty areas are even more in need of such folks. Why? Because the home those students come from is likely of low education background and in order to break that cycle one has to offer a reason to come to class and be interested in what is going on. Many of these students cannot think beyond the end of the week because of the poverty and despair and so this teacher must be a special one to let them know 'there is life beyond this moment and this neighborhood and you can have some of it if you want.' If you can't do that, stay out of that classroom.

Will you reach 100% all the time? Nope. But you can get 85-90% of them on board and that is what is needed. If you have a low income or inner city school filled with these types of teachers you start to make a change.

Of course, this also means that you need an administrator who is endowed with the same characteristics of love, intelligence, self motivation and service. My experience shows me that usually the lowest performing schools in the least desirable areas have an administrator who is not, who tries to run the school like a dictator and not a serious minded, fair but firm, educational leader who also understands what the idea of forgiveness is. Remember, these are children we are dealing with. Finally, the problem does not start in high school. Students do not come through a K-5 situation with great teachers and administrators, go to a stellar middle school and then get dumped in a terribly managed high school. This is a systemic problem where most of these neighborhoods have bad school staffing K-12, all protected by tenure.

There are people willing to go there and do the job needed, with love, concern, compassion and talent. They often get driven away shortly after placement by the rest of a terrible staff around them. The current system leads to the exact type of "cronyism, discrimination, and people rewarded based on their willingness to suck up to superiors rather than their talent and initiative in teaching" the author so frightfully predicts. As long as terrible teachers are protected simply by their union dues, the problem will never get fixed and students will continue to have their present and futures stolen.

Dr. Lemiuex, Randi Randi Weingarten (American Federation of Teachers),
Joshua Pechthalt (California Federation of Teachers) and anyone else whining about this - shut up and go do something about it. There are millions of kids who want to learn and need to learn. Join me in working in the trenches every day because every student you reach is another better able to help others. I know from first hand experience and I am so proud to see my own former students who have gotten into education and help their students every day. Kudos to them and all of the other teachers who really do work hard. Nuts to the rest and please get out of everyone else's way.

DUD 44DUB, you obviously don't know about all the ways AFT does work to help member teachers find positive ways to improve education through on-line lesson and class management resources and workshops. What do these millionaire "reformers" do? They try to get tax dollars to buy their products--charter schools and educational technology ( toys.) One takes money out of the school system the other adds support for over burdened teachers. I work in a low income school so I can say you have a fair assessment of the poverty problems. But my administration and faculty works like a family because our students DO matter to us. Tenure gives these kids stability they miss at home. The really important stuff we do can't be reduced to scores on teacher evaluations or tests scores. The real problem is teacher turn over from burn out of all the latest educational reformers' unfunded mandates and paperwork.


I don't know you or the folks at your school but there are a couple of points to make:

1 - It is good that your school staff works together as a family to try to help the students who enter your doors each day. You are exactly right that stability at school may be the only positive constant they have. But the flaw is when you have one, two or a handful of folks who don't play as part of that team. That is what so many students, including those in the lawsuit, are concerned about. Those tend to filter down to the lowest performing schools because they are tenured, they get surplussed at the end of a year and then no one is willing to pick them up so they get placed at an often times, low income, high difficulty school that has trouble recruiting staff to come there a few days before the start of a new year. They just sort of settle at the bottom and are fully protected with their job while stealing from the future and a year of education from students and their salaries from taxpayers. Of course this does not apply to every teacher at every low income school, but after having spent my first year out of the classroom and in a district supervisory spot for one of the poorest and lowest performing districts in our country I can say that regularly happens with some surety and evidence to back the claim up. It becomes an ugly game of non-performance. Students know teachers (once again, some not all) don't care and aren't teaching their subject, and so if students stay somewhat behaved they get to hang out and get passed without doing anything and the teacher does the same. In all honesty, how many students will back out of that deal? Some, but others may just stay silent, try to get what they can out of the class and not speak up due to peer pressure. This is a win-lose situation where the teacher wins because they get paid but the students and society lose because the students come away with nothing. Having worked under similar conditions for too many years to mention, it was frustrating, but I always knew what my job was and that I could look myself in the eye in the mirror and know I was earning my salary as a non-union employee. Admin gets in on the action as well and that is why the states must have tests, to try to hold adults accountable. When one has good school based leaders, something many impoverished areas also lack for the same reasons as stated above regarding teachers, then nothing changes. Those schools need the best leaders. Seasoned, but with a streak of independence, to get the job done by any means necessary. When someone good does get placed in that situation and is burdened with those who would choose not to improve and are protected by tenure, you have a no win situation.

2 - It doesn't matter what the 'nouveau programme du moment' is, they all have the same foundations and one needs to learn to tailor the program to their plan of daily action. You know what your students need so do it and figure out how to term it with the new jargon. The paperwork can be overwhelming, but work together as a team if it is too much. "Let's do your paperwork today and we'll get mine tomorrow." You'll develop a system to get things accomplished. And no, I was never a saint in the eyes of my administration, in fact I was usually a thorn in their side calling them out on every misstep. Whenever a new program came around my peers always looked to me to be the first to question it, and question and criticize it I did. And of course I would joke with my peers, "Hey, they can't fire me - they were dumb enough to give me tenure."

3 - It's nice that AFT does some thing to try to help teachers improve, but that should be an innate desire whether the union is there or not. Further, it should be the responsibility of every school leader - building and district - to help teachers improve. That is their job. But in order to do so, they must be a good teacher themselves - which many are not. If they see a teacher who is struggling they need to sit down and work with that teacher, as a professional, to improve upholding the administrator's role and responsibility as a professional. They need to be able to go in a model a lesson for that teacher demonstrating how to better reach students. When that happens teachers see that it can be done with their students and in their classroom. If an administrator can't do that they need to be excused. When a district sees a failing school they need to look at the administration first and see why they are failing and then start to look at the teaching staff.

I don't know of a great teacher who has ever been dismissed for poor performance due to lack of tenure issues. There are millions of teachers in America, so I am not saying it has never happened, but I don't know of any cases of it. I do know of many who have been told they will not be allowed to return because they were the low person in service or did not have tenure while someone who was very low performing was kept instead. There is that innate fear of being able to be fired by the lunatic principal who you just don't see eye to eye with. The question would be, if that person is such a nut, why would you want to stay at that school and be in that environment? There is the idea of running out on the kids, the possibility of having one's reputation tarnished by such a unseemly person, but I do think that those cases are/would be few and far between. I feel that most principals want to keep high performing teachers because even if they don't care for the teacher, they tend to reflect well on the school at test time. I think teachers make too big of a deal out of tenure and too many take advantage of it to do a less than acceptable job.

Education is not that hard but many people, even if they think they have the best of intentions, do a terrible disservice to all when they stick their noses in. In the public sector there does have to be oversight and accountability, but if I am hired as a professional (something many teachers are clamoring to be termed as) then treat me as one and let me do my job. Do away with tenure and if I fail, kick me to the curb, but if my students succeed, then I stay. The higher one moves in grades K-12, the more latitude there needs to be and consideration for what level the students came in on. If I am supposed to teach Algebra II and my students have been passed along for all these many years without really knowing how to do any math, then I should not be held accountable for the failings of others but should be judged on how much growth my students had in their year with me. Even if my students score low but show good growth, I am not sure you could find a principal who would show that person the door. But perhaps it would really demonstrate why others need to be.

We lose in the current situation because we have wasted a year in several children's lives and they cannot get it back, but we can do better than to let someone who is tenured continue that malaise year after year. You don't sound as though you are the type of teacher who needs tenure to keep a job but consider all of the students who do have teachers who are only allowed to return because of it.

In a perfect country we wouldn’t need tenure, but we need it more than ever right now. Never mind the ineffective teachers and principals, thoughtful and effective teachers and administrators mean nothing to the venture capitalists who want to privatize education in the U.S. today. This relatively small group of people is extremely wealthy and powerful, with Bill Gates leading the way. Their bottom line is more concerned with shareholder profits, and teacher salaries eat away at net profit. They would ideally like to see a very small teacher work force that uses automated technology as the primary means of instruction. They target the relatively small number of bad teachers as a way to rally the public to dismantle tenure. They are deluded by their own monetary success, and believe that a market-driven educational system that champions a neo liberal worldview is what’s best for everyone. We are living in an oligarchy, and it’s time to wake up!

There is no doubt a small minority of really poor teachers who should not be in a classroom, regardless of what type of professional development they receive, but abolishing tenure is a fool-hearty way to get rid of these teachers. Keep in mind that context matters. An effective teacher in an affluent suburban community may not perform well in an impoverished urban setting and vice-a-versa. The small minority of truly bad teachers is a relatively minor problem that needs to be addressed, but the real crisis in education today is that public education is being manipulated by an oligarchy to serve their own private interests. Students will be college and career ready to serve shareholder profits at the expense of our collective well being. We need tenure in public education to protect our rapidly diminishing democratic interests. While public education in the U.S. is far from equitable and perfect, it is the most essential public institution to help ensure a thriving democracy, and tenure provides K-20 faculty with the protection they need to innovate and speak out against injustice. Unfortunately, teachers may no longer be the only educators who need the protection that tenure affords. A recent survey of principals in Hawaii found that the majority was too scared to speak out against the DOE’s implementation of Race to the Top and other mandates (

You are so far off the mark it is hard to comprehend. Do you even know what the Vergara case is about? It is about the worst teachers being at the schools with the fewest advantages. Please understand what you are talking about before you comment.

Think about it! You are saying that we need to subsidize terrible teachers in order to protect good ones. This is not about the wants/needs of teachers, it is about the genuine and immediate needs of students. If you don't get that then you will never understand. Think about the scale you are trying to balance - we need to protect the income of a college graduated professional in order to have the ability to steal from a child in poverty. Do you understand that this is what you are really saying?

Please, make a trip into a high poverty area, like I do each day, and look a classroom of 7 year olds in the eye and tell them you are going to have to allow them to have a terrible teacher for that year because it is worth more to you for good teachers to have an unneeded protection than for the kids to get an education. Tell them how that works best for them. Also, let them know that even though their high poverty school is laden with teachers of this ilk they should not worry because you are championing the rights of the college educated, currently employed teachers at the more affluent schools who have better track records and parents who are more likely to sue so they need better qualified and performing teachers to make sure the more affluent kids get to college and can get good jobs and careers while sacrificing the future of those innocent children you are speaking to. Really? Are you kidding me? And I hope you know, we are not talking about one single classroom of students here, we are talking about millions of children across this country who face that same challenge every day.

How can you find it anywhere near acceptable to steal from them? Why not take it a step further? Why don't we make each neighborhood fully fund its own school? Then we can let the market decide. The poor and uneducated will stay that way and the more affluent and college educated can stay that way and never the twain shall meet! Of course, unless someone from the latter group hires someone form the former group to come clean their house or maintain their yard because that is all they are good for, right? Ready to go back into that past, are you? Which century or less developed nation shall we visit?

Oh, for a time machine and giving you the opportunity to go back to being a 5 year old and entering kindergarten from a home of poverty, with a school full of terrible teachers and having your future already set before you hit 6! If you are a teacher your license and credentials should be stripped as of this moment until you learn something and earn the right to stand in front of children again by taking a trip into an impoverished neighborhood for a few years. Shame on you for even suggesting that children have their futures stolen so bad teachers can be taken care of. It is criminal!

You wrote: "Never mind the ineffective teachers and principals ,.." Please explain how you tell the children who have these personnel in their school 'never mind'? Never minding them is what has allowed this small sore fester into a gaping wound that is destroying sections of our society and robbing us all. How much do you pay for the upkeep of the millions who have to endure such schools and never get a decent shot at life? How many ended up in the court system at one time or another from such situations over the years? How many other children have similar settings generated that maintain this cycle? 'Never mind' - go ahead and switch places with all those you never mind.

You mention a small minority of 'bad teachers'. Here is a real small minority for you - cite how many 'good teachers' have ever been fired for doing an excellent job in the classroom while also maintaining all laws and policies of their district and standards of decency expected by our society. There is your small minority! The number of under performing teachers in urban districts is shockingly high. Think about the setting - every one you want to protect steals their salary from the public and steals a year of quality education from at least 25-20 K-5 or 100+ 6-12 students each year. Take those numbers and multiply by the number of 'bad teachers' and then the number of years they are allowed to under perform and you get a scary big number.

This is what the Vergara case is about. We could also solve this by taking all of the really bad teachers and putting them in the really affluent neighborhoods. What would happen? The public schools would empty and the private schools would fill. The wealthier set would never stand for it. Why should we make those on the other end of the economic scale? Or, what if we put your children in a school filled with all of the 'small minority' of bad teachers and administrators? Would you be okay with that? If it is not good enough for your children, why is it good enough for someone else's?

You wrote: "An effective teacher in an affluent suburban community may not perform well in an impoverished urban setting and vice-a-versa." Bunk! An effective teacher is an effective teacher - end of story. They are effective because of subject knowledge coupled with a love of those they are assigned to instruct. It does not matter the setting or audience - an effective teacher will get the job done.

Your next statement is even further off the mark. You wrote: "The small minority of truly bad teachers is a relatively minor problem..." Once again, tell that to the children who have that teacher. It is not a small problem for them, it is their future. You really need some perspective.

Your lack of education regarding education is appalling. You wrote: "A recent survey of principals in Hawaii found that the majority was too scared to speak out against the DOE’s implementation of Race to the Top and other mandates" Anyone in education knows that principals serve at the pleasure of their local LEA or its head. Why would anyone ever think about offering a principal tenure? The moment they fail to perform they negatively affect every child in an entire school, not just a class!

And you so obviously contradict yourself with this: "While public education in the U.S. is far from equitable and perfect, it is the most essential public institution to help ensure a thriving democracy, and tenure provides K-20 faculty with the protection they need to innovate and speak out against injustice." Speak out against injustice? How is it justice for any child to have an ineffective teacher? If the K-20 faculty really cares they will applaud getting rid of tenure to rid their ranks of poor peers. If not, they are part of the injustice and just as liable for it.

Your username is 'realitycheck'. Please walk away from the computer, visit a struggling school for a year and get a genuine reality check! Then come back and say something worthwhile.

dub44dub: You must be an adolescent lawyer for Teach for America or Michelle Rhee, etc. You suggest sacrificing the entire tenure system and public education as we know it as a means to remove the poorest performing teachers and privatize education. Having children subjected to the poorest teachers is dreadful, but you are playing on people's emotions by making it sound like we have a terrible teacher epidemic. Your energy would be better spent trying to prosecute the much larger relative percentage of abusive parents. Your reasoning would suggest that we go ahead and get rid of automobiles (especially the cheaper ones) since they are the number one cause of death for children in the United States today. Your messianic tone is scary. I hope you are just a paid thug and don't really believe what you're saying. Just keep your script away from Hollywood. The public has had enough of your psycho babble teacher bashing garbage.

How is ridding states of a tenure system a sacrifice? What is being given up? The protection of bad teachers? Once again, how many 'good teachers' have been fired for good performance? And once again, let's sit your children in a bad teacher's classroom year after year and see how you feel about it. Low quality teachers in our nation today IS an epidemic in part because of the breakdown of so many families and the lack of proper education that hundreds of millions of children - likely yourself included - used to receive at home before entering school. I cannot fix that, there is a little thing called freedom in our country, but I can take what others have made a mess of and try to apply the best help possible - a good educational experience to allow children to lift themselves, to see that there is life beyond their decaying, overlooked neighborhood, if they can only tough it out and keep going towards that light at the end of that long tunnel.

"The public has had enough of your psycho babble teacher bashing garbage." Is this quoted well enough for you? Thank you for speaking on behalf of the entire American public. Which inner city community in the United States does not want improved education - facilities, outcomes, opportunities? Please list them all. Oh, wait - your comment is coming from a comfortable, middle class, person of the 'real American public', not the ones stuck in economic misery due to systemic, low quality educational opportunities of past years that continue in the present. Yes, they don't really count do they, not part of the public. I see. Very prescient of you to point that out! What a great role model of compassion you are.

As long as there is one bad teacher in front of a class of students who deserve better you can rest assured I will bring a big stick and bash away until that child gets the teacher they deserve.

Heard some commentators talking today and see that New York is also going to have a lawsuit challenging tenure laws. During that conversation they mentioned that public opinion actually agrees with the Vergara decision so I did a little looking. June 26 California poll results show that 58% disagree with the tenure laws, 68% disagree with how they are currently written and 62% with knowledge of the decision stated they agreed with the judge. So much for your argument of public opinion. Any other swings-and misses you wish to trot out?

dub44dub: If indeed you are a classroom teacher (seems unlikely given your holier-than-thou rage) you may need to consider a career change. Teaching is a collaborative profession. If you're in it for the long haul you will need to learn to work together and learn from other teachers. Humble yourself just a little. Know that you're not the only one out there trying to make a difference in children's lives. Know that it's not a simple task with easy answers. Getting rid of tenure to get rid of the poorest performing teachers is not the quick fix you argue for (again, I suspect it's a disingenuous argument to begin with given your predictable rant -- blah, blah, blah, I'm so angry, standing up for the voiceless disadvantaged, visit a struggling school, etc., etc.). This once clever union bashing ploy is losing ground quickly as the public begins to realize that tenure is not the problem in K-20 education. Poverty and economic inequality is hurting our most disadvantaged schools/students -- tenure is not the problem. Ever hear of Diane Ravitch? Go read her blog, get informed about what's really going on -- as if you really don't already know. You're being unmasked. Go start your own private school(s) but leave the public schools to the public -- for the public good.

Just so you know, I am no longer a classroom teacher but was promoted to a district position in one of the lowest performing districts in America precisely because of the quality of my instruction and the accompanying student outcomes. No matter the students in the class the district could never understand the improvement that took place. That same fire you disparage is what drove me and helped me inspire thousands of students over 18 years to find the genius in them and do more and better than they ever had or thought possible. Did I have a perfect 100% with every child - no, but even those who dropped out, didn't pass or whatever now see me and we smile and talk and they say they now understand what I was trying to teach them. Hundreds made it out of those neighborhoods and when I see them a college graduates, professionals, doing well and happy with their own families now I know I am exactly right. It is very interesting to see the parents of those I taught that are still in the neighborhood demand that their child or family relation be put in my class for those very reasons. I was greatly dismayed by those I taught with who should have been fired and very sad for the children who did not get to be in my classes. I would have been wonderfully happy teaching every child at my school and would have devoted every bit of energy to each of them as well. It is sad to see some of them now and know that their life is not what it could be and think back to the teachers they had instead of me and how that affected them. Was I a perfect teacher, of course not. But my promotion was not something I applied for, the district called on me to help other teachers. That is my job now. I develop PD programs in my district, model lessons for others, bring in local university professors and museums and corporate entities to help my subject area. I have been in my job for 13 months now and the district has already seen growth in our field and the partnerships I have set in motion are already paying dividends for children in the form of scholarships, internships, job opportunities, dual enrollment college credit courses, improved teacher quality and greater student achievement. I just completed a summer full of PD programs and at every single one at least a few teachers or administrators said it was the best PD session they had ever had. Sadly, hundreds of teachers who should have attended CHOSE not to and DECIDED to have vacation instead of improving themselves as a professional. This is a huge problem with teachers today - thinking they already know it all, have it all and don't need to improve. Funny enough, that sounds like a result of being too comfortable is their position - maybe something to do with tenure? I am fully invested to improving teacher quality and have another 4 Saturday program starting this morning. I am making a difference. When I go to model lessons in classes for struggling teachers they cannot believe how I can get their students engaged and interested and it helps them see that they can to - but it takes work and research and preparation. I am not seeking personal recognition, if I were the chapter in a book written by others about my first year teaching would have had my name, but I wouldn't allow it. I do what I do because I see the innocence in a child's eyes and know they deserve better. Come on down and look these kids in the eye and tell them that we have to keep their lazy, terrible teachers - of course not all, but even one is too many - protected so they can keep their cars and homes while these kids - who through no fault of their own - are born into the most extreme poverty we see in America - and yes, I well know the difference between poverty in America compared to the rest of the world. If you can do that look these kids in the eye and tell them they do not deserve better then we need to star you in the next incantation of the Grinch. Although I am sure it would be to scary for kids.

dub44dub: And next time you respond, don't quote people out of context. Here's my entire quote: "Never mind the ineffective teachers and principals, thoughtful and effective teachers and administrators mean nothing to the venture capitalists who want to privatize education in the U.S. today." Venture capitalists generally want to get rid of all teachers because teachers eat away at net profit. And if you're still in the dark here your blog posts read like classic venture capitalist propaganda. At least be honest. Just say that you believe in privatizing education and be done with it.

Once again, you are so far off the mark. You have to see this from the eyes of the student sitting in the terrible classroom and run down school. Until you do that you will never, ever understand. How about changing places with one of these kids? You swap places with them, face the violence, brutality, crime, poverty and despair that permeates their neighborhoods, family and life each day of their entire life and see how you feel about it then. So I will happily go back to my point - don't ever say never mind the ineffective teachers and principals when talking about this ENTIRE issue because there are millions of children who have to suffer because of them every school day. It is not a tangent as you suggest, it is the very heart of the matter.

Here are some decent articles/videos on the rise of venture philanthropy and the movement to privatize education:

Didn't look at a one, won't comment on them, not concerned.

The question really comes down to this - What are you doing to help solve the problem of children not getting a quality education?

Complaining about protecting teacher tenure is not a good answer. It does nothing to help children, it only helps adults.

Find a way to help children.

As I was working with teachers yesterday we viewed some Civil Rights era photos, looking at them as primary sources. I thought, I wonder which one of those sneering faces would have been yours, forever held in that pose, protecting the 'beloved institution' of tenure you hold so dear. This is a Civil Rights issue, making sure every child has access to a quality education and great teachers, not just the privileged few or even the majority - all. In America we can do that and tenure is your 'beloved institution' that is no different that the ideals some were desperately trying to cling to in the 60s. Take your arguments, replace the word tenure with voting or segregation or equal rights and see how they stack up.

The real problem is that you have a few dedicated veteran teachers, a high concentration of new and young teachers and as of late a high turnover in administration at many of these so-called disadvantaged schools. Then add a high percentage of students who struggle academically (many due to poverty) as well as the stripping of needed resources, it's a recipe for failure. Teachers are the easiest to blame and frankly we're fed up.

"So-called disadvantaged schools" - you have obviously never been to one otherwise you would be wise enough to know they truly are disadvantaged. And just why do they struggle academically? Poverty is a factor, but not the only one, the teachers, who are 'fed up' with being blamed, are not doing their job. Just today I delivered some materials to one of these indeed disadvantaged schools and the students were bored to death with the teacher's 'lesson'. After assigning them to read while questions about the materials were asked of me I asked if I could speak to them about what they read. I started, I asked intelligent, fun, important questions and soon these impoverished, bored, under-achieving students were engaged, thoughtful, LEARNING and THINKING. It just takes some heart, skill and intelligence to reach kids. Putting a low motivated, improperly prepared teacher who is protected by tenure in front of any classroom is a recipe for failure. Which is exactly why Vergara and more soon to be coming cases are so important. Teachers have a chance to prove it every day, so do it. If you deserve the job then earn it and keep it, if not, be on your way. If you can't motivate your students, then yes, the problem is you. Part of your task as a professional is to be able to reach them and find interesting and creative ways to help them learn. You won't get them all, but you should be above 90%. If not, then yes, the problem is you. Teachers and schools need to take a customer centered approach, and the students are the customers. I am not talking about always entertaining them, but school is a place where they should want to be and if your classroom isn't, then there is only one person who can improve that. If you are fed up with the criticism raise your game or get another job where the stakes are not so high. Who cares if you are fed up - the students are fed up with low quality teaching and low outcome learning. As far as administration goes, they should be the educational leaders on campus. If they are not, the entire school suffers. Want to see a high performing school? Find a quality administrator who demands it of all of their staff, which trickles down to high expectations for students - in behavior and performance. Those leaders are not leaving. Go to a low performing school and you'll see just the opposite. An administrator drives in a a shiny new car, is unapproachable and out of touch with what is really needed or what is really going on. Everyone just sort of flounders along and as long as paychecks come in all the adults play right along and pass everyone right along. Kids get ripped off in the end. Hopefully we are ridding the system of these.

If you are fed up, do something about it. You and a few others who are fed up, go to the "so called disadvantaged" school and turn it around. Prove your mettle and your worth and do a good turn for someone else.

dub44dub: If you're in a district position, you sure have a lot of extra time on your hands in order to keep coming back to this post and veiling yourself behind righteous rhetoric that twists what others write (you're still quoting me and others out of context). You have no time to inform yourself about the movement to privatize education in this country? You really don't care? Did TFA brainwash you to think that you're really serving the public good by channeling tax payer monies into corporate hands through excessive high stakes assessment (both student and teacher) and the narrow curricula that is pushed down our throats? Either you're totally ignorant (and then there's some hope) or you truly believe that the shareholder's bottom line is what matters most. Yes, kids are the priority, I don't hear anyone in this post arguing that they are not, but getting rid of tenure to fire a handful of bad apple teachers will actually hurt the vast vast majority of children. You must be living in a TFA bubble. Step outside your own little world (and your own little district) and do some serious research before you start coming up with your perceived quick fixes to our entire education system. I work as an educational specialist at a public university. I was an elementary classroom teacher for ten years prior to that. Over my 25 year career I have visited several hundred classrooms in two states in a wide variety of socio-economic contexts. I've worked and still work with some outstanding teachers, a great number of good solid teachers, a fair number of decent teachers, and a few really poor teachers that I would not want any child to face. And while I may desire to drag those few really poor teachers right out of the classroom, I understand that the current system of tenure, as imperfect as it may be, is much better than no tenure at all for reasons that have been clearly articulated above and are widely accepted in the academic research community. The key here is that I do not just base my actions on my own experience. There is a huge body of research that I consult before taking action. So no more blabber, please, dub44dub. We don't have any more time to entertain you in this post. If you're truly passionate about children's wellbeing then please pick up a book and learn a bit more about your profession. Experience counts for a lot, but don't base your actions solely upon your own successes and the failures you perceive in others. The tenure system is highly complex and varies widely in different states and school districts. It may indeed need reform in some cases, but as far as problems go in educational policy and practice it is a minor issue. The small group of very powerful venture philanthropists who want to end tenure nationally have little interest in the well-being of children (see above articles -- don't just dismiss them again -- they get at the heart of this debate). Don't sell your soul to these guys dub44dub. They'll promote you, as they are methodically promoting their servants across the country right now, all the way up the ladder as one of their poster children. You're being used. Get off the kill tenure wagon, keep your passion, foster some collegiality with those teachers who aren't as amazing as you perceive yourself to be, start reading a little, and maybe you really will have a significant impact on children's lives. The alternative is that one day when you're old and gray you'll wake up and wonder how you became such a selfish b*****d, and you'll yearn for the days when you were a passionate teacher who really was making a difference in kids' lives. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're truly out of touch and don't even realize that you're chasing the lure of the almighty corporate dollar. That's what the end tenure now movement is really all about, and you're being swept up in the well-designed and incredibly well-funded fervor of it all.

Once again, no where near close to the truth. Your little district? Try one of the top 20 largest in America. Filled with low performing teachers across the grade bands. I don't think I am perfect or better than anyone else, but I know I work much harder than most and am more dedicated than most. Buy into their system? False. I am changing the one I work in for the better. People are coming to me for more and more projects because they recognize the quality of my work and thought and it is not anywhere close to corporate. In fact, I am just the opposite, I push people away from that mentality and as I have said (how many times throughout) it is about children, yet you always come back to adults. They are the problem and you, in siding with keeping awful teachers in classrooms are part of it as well. As a university specialist why would you not spend more time with the ineffective teachers trying to get something more out of them? You talk about the broad spectrum you work with, the only work you should do with the superior folks is pairing them with lower grade teachers in trying to get them to improve. There is your shared experience. I rarely shared what I made or did for that very reason - I made it. I would share with people how I did it and always offer to help, but as a teacher why would I invest all of my time, skill and energy so someone else down the hall or down the street could take what I made and ineffectively use it because they don't know the ins and outs? I am happy to collaborate with those who are willing to work but not those who just want to copy somebody's powerpoint from the internet or a flash drive, change a few slides and say this is good enough. A national drive for tenure change shows a lack of understanding on your part. I would hope there is a national drive because most states really should take a look and see how antiquated and out of touch the laws are. When they were enacted they were likely a decent fit for hard working, dedicated, professional teachers. Too many now look at tenure as a lock that keeps them in place so they no longer have to grow or improve. That is the great flaw. Perform today or be out tomorrow. We owe it to kids. "Experience counts for a lot, but don't base your actions solely upon your own successes and the failures you perceive in others." Why would I not base my actions upon my successes? What is it that makes me successful? Why am I different than those who don't achieve? And how am I so successful in a low income setting where everyone says success is not possible? I know lots of university folks who washed out of day to day teaching settings. Lots of administrators who couldn't be successful in a classroom and left. I am none of those. I actually make less now per day in my role than I did in a classroom and don't get summer off anymore. I would be happy to go back to a classroom and help students grow as I did for so many years. I am taking this opportunity to take a chance at widening my circle of influence and help more teachers get better. I am complimented by others when I help in their classroom, send them materials I have made to help, model teach for them and show them what is possible. I am complimented by administrators for helping their teachers get better and see what is possible by being a 'boots on the ground' person, right beside their teachers in the trenches. I love to see teachers light up and get that spark again and am disgusted when I see classrooms where there is none. Those are the people who have to go. Yes, I am all for doing away with tenure because if you deserve to be in the classroom, entrusted with teaching children and helping them build the foundations for their future, you need to earn it every day. You always come at it from the perspective of an adult, which is the problem. You need to change your view and look at it from the student's point of view. What are they getting out of this class? If it is little or nothing, other than a worthless credit towards a meaningless diploma because they got passed along in school but never really learned much, why would they put in any effort? If people are worth having in the classroom they do not need protection for their job - they just need to do it and make sure they are always wanted. Doing a good job is the best security there is. Selfish b*****d? Try again. Everyone who knows me and how much I give knows you have no idea what you are talking about with regards to that, and obviously many other issues. Did you ever decide which of the sneering faces would be yours? Turn your statement around and look in the mirror if you dare. I am all about the kids, always have been, always will be.

37 teachers at today's literacy session. I don't get paid for working on Saturdays but I did and a couple of local professors I know are helping out. What a bunch of selfish b*****ds we all are.

You still have yet to point out a situation where a worthy teacher was fired due to lack of tenure. I am sure there are a few, but tens of thousands of situations where terrible teachers have been protected and left in place due to tenure - yesterday, today and sadly tomorrow - but hopefully not for long. Went by a couple of schools this week and saw almost complete staff turnovers from last year and a different feel in the entire school. Students are happier and engaged, miserable teachers just collecting a check are gone. Yay! The system is working for good! A student even commented to me on how much better school is with the different teachers and administration in place. There is hope in the air and promise on the horizon for that school and those kids.

Also, going to a district position I give up my tenure. I could be fired tomorrow but am confident I will not be because of the quality of my work. Everyone should work under that same premise in education. If you don't muster up, if your work is not up to par, they should get rid of you because the job is too important.

Linked below is a great article by incoming NEA president Lily Eskelsen Garcia. It clearly articulates why the need for a strong teacher's union is so crucial to children's well being and success. It works to dispel the toxic and non-evidence-based privatization rhetoric espoused by such clever and well-funded spin doctor organizations like TFA, NCTQ, Gates Foundation and company:

She had better attempt to make a strong case! She has to blow out a lot of hot air to make that $297,310 salary that Dennis made last year! Almost $300,000, well over with benefits, so they can 'protect' the 'rights' of those earning 1/6 of that - no matter if they are the best or worst teacher in the country - and ensure that it is virtually impossible to have them removed. Also, she is advocating for children? I think not. She is advocating for herself, her cronies in the enterprise and her minions while clearly saying she is willing to steal from those who have no other recourse. Protect those in a safe haven, already with an education, job, roof over their head, meals on the table and health care and let those who are innocent, who have no control over their place in life and needing the most help - yes, children - languish in the classroom of someone who doesn't have to really work because their job is protected and funded by those they steal from so that they have no future to look forward to. Yeah, that sounds just about right, doesn't it? It would be nice to see you leave the ivory tower and find the millions of kids in America in such settings and tell them why it is the right thing to do.

"...the need for a strong teacher's union is so crucial to children's well being and success." = Make sure teachers (good or bad) get taken care of so they can maybe see about teaching children if they have the time, energy and interest after they check to make sure their check was safely deposited.

And of course I am not speaking of all teachers, but there are too many who are union protected criminals. This is exactly why tenure needs to be done away with. Earn your keep every day. Why should a parent who has to perform in their job every day expect anything different from their child's teacher? And I am not a spin doctor, nor well funded, nor for privatization - but I do have plenty of evidence of excessively inadequate performances in education. Who it is toxic to is the innocent children involved. Do you understand what innocent children are? Go ahead and keep trying to justify stealing from them. It will never work. This is a Civil Rights issue. At stake are the rights of children from the lowest rungs of American society. Why don't they deserve the best teachers and opportunities? How does a union driven, dues paying member protection from being fired system that eventually swirls the lowest performers down to the lowest achieving because few want to go to that setting ever help the children in that setting? You act as if these children have all of these opportunities to do so much for themselves when they are not sure of what will happen in their life by the end of the day. Walk a few miles using their perspective (I don't say in their shoes because sometimes they have them and other times we need to give them a pair), try to see what real poverty in America is like, how it feels, where it leads and then continue to say why they need to continue to be pushed to the side.

dubb44dubb: Quit posting on this site for your own sake and self-decency. Your spin isn't working so well any more. Wake up! Are you kidding us? The majority of educators have to work on weekends. You're not as special as you think you are. Times are a changin'. The King's Clothes are falling off and people are starting to speak out. The more you babble the more you're exposing yourself. Better give up the kill tenure fight or start transitioning to the career you were really after in the first place. Your promotions up the ladder may end sooner than expected.

You still have yet to address the main issue - the number of teachers who have been fired versus those who have been kept due to tenure. Why do you always run from or avoid this? The exposure needs to come from you taking off your jaded lenses. Take a look at a public opinion poll and see where tenure rates. This public that you claim supports you does not because of the failure of so many teachers, administrators and systems to educate children. You are an interesting sort. You call people names, curse (but put asterisks in place of letters for the sake of decency), tell others to stop posting in a public forum, demand to have your way because you have no vision of anything outside of your existence and wants, don't address core issues, hide from the truth and try to let someone else express what you are unable to do yourself citing articles for someone to turn to rather than developing and defending your own thoughts and through your own actions. These behavioral patterns and attitudes are what too many see in teachers these days and precisely why tenure should be done away with. You can't just download a powerpoint for this. As I said, I could be fired with a simple e-mail as I write this post and there is nothing I could do about it. How to I make sure it doesn't happen? I work harder and smarter than those around me and make sure what I do produces a positive difference. Whining doesn't stop the future from coming and happening. Please let me know if this is a good enough quote for you -

"Times are a changin'. The King's Clothes are falling off and people are starting to speak out. The more you babble the more you're exposing yourself. "

You wrote it, but your understanding of the words and nationwide meaning are mistaken. Times are changing and tenure is going away, or will at least be dramatically altered for the better of the public who pays the salaries of those desiring tenure. Those losing attire are the union and its over-protected members and they are being exposed for the frauds they have been for too long. The lawsuits you fear and deride are the people speaking out. The more you write (or babble, to quote you correctly as you so often demand) demonstrate your true nature and character. You are one of the reasons the states need to choose to alter or do away with tenure laws and policies. Keeping those like yourself in the classroom is not healthy for children or the country. You always write about those mentally abused and scared folks called teachers who are college educated, have chosen to enter a field and have a job (over 20 who thanked me in person or via e-mail just today as I went about my business of helping them so they can help students). Those you should focus on are those who are the future and need to be educated so they can get jobs. You always talk about (and side with) the haves and not the have-nots. You avoid that issue at every turn and never once address how any of your ideas of tenure help a child in poverty, in a run down school, who is 'instructed' (ha) by a tenure protected sloth. Well, you did mention them once and opined that we should all just never mind them in the light of venture philanthropists and their corporate takeover of all that is sacred and holy. Fear and greed have warped you into thinking that some rich bogeyman is out to get you and steal the bread from your plate. I suppose it is good that you are out of a classroom and placed as an extra super special university specialist (that isn't anywhere near a PhD, is it? and cracekrjack box EdD's don't count) and that you tend to be around those who already have a high school diploma and are hopefully being properly trained and educated by full professors who have the wherewithal to do so. (Is it possible that you and your paranoia are the study of someone working on their PhD? They can keep you close to track you.) Can you honestly look the students from the Vergara case, or any student in a failing school, in the eye and explain to them how tenure is so important that the collective 'we' must steal from the individual 'them' so that a chosen 'few' can be guaranteed jobs and a comfortable lifestyle? I would be interested to see you try. Also, I know I'm not special, just different, thank goodness! Administrators, teachers and kids thank me for it daily. I always reply that I am just doing my job and will always try to make things better for each one of them. I go about my work as a humble servant of others, not someone to lord over anyone else like the almighty university specialists are empowered to do by the glacatic empire. I hope the sneer on your face isn't frozen there, but I can report that the smile on mine doesn't stop. And I share it with as many others as I can each day so we can all brighten the world together. Try a little peace, love and happiness - it's much more healthy.

The champion of abolishing tenure, Michelle Rhee, wrongfully fired 241 teachers before she was dismissed from her position as Chancellor from the D.C. schools. Her decision to dismiss these teachers was largely based on using student test scores to rate teacher performance -- an approach to teacher performance evaluation that is considered to be invalid by the vast majority of the educational research community.

dubb44dubb's arguments follow a very similar Michelle Rhee pattern of starting with a conclusion, e.g., abolishing tenure would serve children better than keeping tenure in place, without a body of evidence to support such a conclusion.

From How Michelle Rhee Misled Education Reform:

"Rhee simply isn’t interested in reasoning forward from evidence to conclusions: conclusions are where she starts, which means that her book cannot be trusted as an analysis of what is wrong with public schools, when and why it went wrong, and what might improve the situation. The only topics worth discussing for Rhee are abolishing teacher tenure, establishing charter schools, and imposing pay-for-performance regimes based on student test scores. We are asked to understand these measures as the only possible means of addressing a crisis of decline that is existentially threatening the United States as a nation and denying civil rights to poor black people.1"

And Michelle Rhee has stepped down from her role as the leader of the cleverly spun "StudentsFirst" organization (from

"The growing recognition of the failure of her style of high-stakes testing and test-based teacher evaluation did not seem to have played a role in her decision to step aside. Probably, living in the corporate reform echo chamber, she was unaware that her prize policies are on the ropes, as parents and teachers join to fight the reign of standardized testing."

And now Campbell Brown is replacing Michelle Rhee as the kill tenure face of the reform movement. The following blog provides an excellent overview of how abolishing tenure will inevitably lead to removing excellent teachers who speak up for the rights of children and are against the narrow high-stakes testing that harm children.

As I've noted before, in addition to my own experiences, I look to other educator's experiences and research to support the claim that tenure ultimately protects children.


A private employee serves one master-- the company.

A public school teacher serves several hundred masters. And on any given day, many of those masters will fight for ascendency. A teacher cannot serve all of those interests, and yet that is the teacher's mandate. Tenure is meant to shield the teacher from the political fallout of these battles, to give the teacher the freedom to balance all these interests as she sees best.

Yes, of course, private corporations are rife with internal struggles and employees who have to decide which corporate masters to serve. But at the end of the day, these conflicts are all reserved the same way-- what best serves the interests of the company.

Reformsters have tried to make education that simple. "Okay, here it is," they proclaimed proudly, Gordian knot-cutters in hand. "The purpose of schools is to get good test scores. You are doing a good job when students get good scores on The Big Standardized Test! See? Simple!!" And that would make things simple-- if anyone believed for ten minutes that generating good test scores really was the main interest of a school.

Nobody does, so we're right back where we're started, with a teacher who has a mandate to serve a thousand masters, any one of whom may get angry that some other master was served first and so, let's fire that terrible teacher! Private employees stand and face the same master-- the good of the company-- and while there is certainly jockeying for position and jostling and not a small amount of kicking and gouging, in the end, they all still face the good of the company. But teachers stand in the middle of a circle of masters, always turning their back to one of them. Without tenure, the master they've turned their back on has the power to jump forward and lop off their heads.

Teachers often frame the need for tenure as the need for protection from one bad boss. But in truth as public employees we have thousands of bosses; all it takes is just one out of a thousand to be bad for our career to be in danger. That's why we need tenure.

Hysteria abounds. Several hundred masters? Not even close, the only master they serve is those who they allow themselves to be beholden to. The union and tenure would actually have everyone and everything be slaves unto them. Imagine the inability to be removed from a position. That sounds sort of like a king, or maybe a master from the days of the Confederacy. I have to hand it to you, when you are wrong you go all in!

When a good teacher uses the classroom as a success lab for all students they are facilitating individual student growth and they work as partners in a child's development. When doing so students get a well rounded education and not simply in a subject area and funny enough, do better on tests. Hmmmm.... Sounds like one can be a good teacher and have students achieve on tests, though that is not the goal. Now go to an underperforming teacher's classroom. There is no success because the teacher doesn't expect it of the students who in turn do not expect it of themselves and everyone loses, yet the tenured teacher still gets that paycheck no matter what the students get or don't get. And test scores, forget about it. State or national tests are not the be all, end all of education, though you make it sound as if they are. But tenure is the reason so many states have turned to them. When one is tenured it is almost impossible to get rid of them. So they are allowed to underperform year after year after year. Michelle Rhee burned her own bridges by not being intelligent about what she wanted to do. Were the DC schools achieving? No, not anywhere close. So why was it important to keep teachers in a system that has consistently lagged behind? How would the system (and students) ever achieve and change or growth? Were students to blame? Maybe in a small measure. Family situations and poverty? Some as well. Tenured teachers going through the motions year after year - there it is, the linchpin that allows everything else to fall apart. To fix a low achieving school or district the first thing that has to be accomplished is ridding it of low performing 'professionals' - aka tenured teachers. They have presided over the failure of the school, they are the primary cause. You can't blame the kids because parents aren't keeping the best ones at home. An all encompassing staff evaluation and turnover is what will make the difference. There may be a few good eggs laboring in the school, but toss the rest. The new life breathed into the school will be a welcome change to the students. Firm, fair and consistent policy enforcement, with a dash of compassion tossed in because these are children and they will make mistakes, is needed. Why? The old staff and the old plans weren't working. You are for allowing the lowest performing schools to continue to churn out below level students with worthless diplomas because they are not associated with any genuine learning or skills. As long as the teachers get paid! And the almighty university specialists can come in and rate the teachers and the return to their esteemed campus and eschew their beloved institution of tenure which insulates both good and bad teachers and steals from children. Lunacy. If you really are a quality professional teacher your quality will shine through no matter the environment. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. If you are any good, there is nothing to be afraid of because if you were to get non-renewed by a dictatorial administrator it isn't a place you would want to be anyway. And, if you possess the quality that schools are looking for you will have no problem getting on somewhere else, and likely being happier for it. I have never had to worry about that because even the bad administrators I worked for recognized my quality and never thought to want me to leave. And not every teacher teaches a tested subject. Trying to toss testing in as the bad guy is wrongheaded. Something needs to be done to measure growth. And state growth measures look for just that, growth in the course of a school year. No one gets fired for having a student come in three grade levels below in literacy, raising that child two grade levels in a single year and the student exiting closer to grade level.

Argument starting with a conclusion? Students will be better served by ridding the system of tenure and making teachers earn their keep. Common sense. Proven daily in thousands of situations worldwide. When you know your performance counts, you apply yourself more. If you know you don't have to do anything to keep your spot, why try harder? Silly.

What you are really saying is forget the children who are required to attend low performing schools filled with low performing, tenured teachers. You are saying those students don't matter. Why? Because you are for allowing those tenured teachers to keep on doing exactly what they have been doing for the past several years while the school has degraded before their very eyes and in their hands. They are tenured, they can't be tossed out, they get paid, the kids get nothing. Way to go realitycheck, I would hate to have to view the world everyday through your out of whack sight. Fortunately, I don't.

You never address the plight of these innocent children. You only stick up for those who already have an education and jobs. Your stance of trickle down isn't working and never has. Separate is unequal, that was decided long ago. Separating a child from a quality education to line the pockets of the tenured teacher and the union through their dues is immoral. Yet you continue to argue for that. It is an argument that you will never win. It took years for de jure segregation to be done away with. Hopefully the de facto segregation in education is coming down faster and the tenure that is a major supporting plank will fall soon, as we have already seen in California. Thank goodness for Miss Vergara and her peers for standing up for their own rights that you would have stolen from them. They are speaking for children and parents across this country. You choose to side with a group dedicated to themselves and not those they are supposed to serve, not in a completely out of place master-servant relationship, as you tried to outline, but in the role of true service, through love and compassion for one's fellow human beings.

To use the term master is really awful. Remember that in our country most times 'masters' were someone who owned someone else. Every teacher in this country has the option to walk away at any second, free and clear. They have no masters. Did the slaves who were genuinely owned by masters have that choice? You should really think before you start strewing your crooked fairy tales out. Obviously that is out of your realm though.

Tenure in the K-12 world provides for due process. It protects children and teachers from the whims of corporate reformists who want to maximize profits by dumbing down the teaching profession and creating a revolving workforce and/or automating teaching and learning in high profit online venues. Presidential hopeful Rand Paul's recent comments epitomize exactly why tenure laws are more important now than ever before.
(see following excerpt from

According to the Politico newsletter, Paul is “planning a major push on education reform, including ‘education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.”‘

Gotta love the “you name it” proposal, don’t you? So reassuring to parents. “Relax, we’re enrolling your kid in the ‘You Name It’ program this year. Everything will be fine.”

In an astonishing display of incoherence, he told the Politico reporter how much he, and his children, had benefited from traditional public schools – “I grew up and went to public schools. My kids have gone to public schools” – and then suggested we create something that looks nothing like them.

“Have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus … teach every calculus class in the country,” he rambled, in belief, somehow, that having “2 million people in the classroom” would ensure more children “have a teacher that may be having a more hands-on approach.” Really?

Unfortunately, the power and profit thirsty few who are pushing to abolish tenure can be found in both Democratic and Republican camps.

It's important to remember that the whole abolish tenure movement is being funded and promoted by a very small minority of very powerful folks as articulated in the above article, post, and numerous cited articles.

While there are basic similarities to K-12 tenure laws and policies across the country, e.g., protecting due process rights, it is highly nuanced in different contexts. Reform may indeed be needed in certain contexts, but the notion of abolishing tenure altogether is clearly a design by the elite to try to corporatize and privatize education to serve their own selfish interests.

Once again, not deeply contemplated thoughts or anything based in reality. Rand Paul is 51 and was born in Pennsylvania where he started school in a good setting and then his family moved to a suburb of Houston where he also attended good public schools. The places where he went to school are still decent and relatively affluent so the perception of pubic schools there would be decent. Go into the rough parts of Houston though. See how those schools function. Head into lower income areas of Atlanta and see the condition of those schools. You love to bash Michelle Rhee and I am no fan, but head into the Anacostia neighborhood (if you dare) of the DC area and see how well those kids are educated. Take a trip down Crenshaw Boulevard in LA or into Compton and see the gleaming schools and outstanding achievement. Southside Chicago? Anywhere in the city limits of Detroit? East St. Louis? Low income Cleveland? 5 Points Denver? West Valley Salt Lake? Which one of these do you want to go get the student achievement and teacher effectiveness data from and plug tenure with? Don't talk about tenure and only think about the affluent suburbs because they are not the only students and teachers that matter. You always forget that there are innocent children in terrible schools. It seems you have never visited one, maybe been near one, and that is the reason. Until I moved here I had played sports against a few but had never been at one for any length of time and knew nothing of them. I grew up in a dark blue collar household in a small town and never knew anything of poverty. Your perspective is coming from a place where poverty doesn't exist in America. You are wrong, it does. Look at the word for a moment - poverty - it means the lack of. We can look at any of the regions I mentioned above and see it littered throughout the community. Lack of solid family units, lack of family stability, lack of income, lack of economic opportunity and yes - lack of access to a quality public education. Why? Because the tenure system you want to defend has allowed those schools to sink lower and lower with the same teachers getting better pay and more benefits and more protection because they pay their union dues to a group who pays their president some $400,000. Garbage. The moment I started teaching at an inner city, low income school is when I started to grasp these concepts. You, just like too much of America, does not understand how much of a problem this is and never will until you live in it for a while. They claim they gave to a charity, or helped a Habitat For Humanity project for a day or drove past and was saddened by the squalor but have never gotten in and waded around for several years and worked and struggled and tried and cried with those who are mired in it and have been for generations. Is there an end in sight for them? Those who support tenure go to a suburban school and protest that somebody there needs to be protected but wouldn't set foot in the neighborhoods that need protection in education - protection for children. Protection from lazy and tenured and income assured adults who have no intention of doing anything more, but making sure they get paid. The world, the country and education have changed drastically since either you or Rand Paul were in a school. And, the way you are speaking, it is exactly what his Republican Party is against - a nationalization of education. Flimsiness and lack of depth of understanding are not reasons to cite. The country will never go for nationalized education, see the push back on Common Core currently going on, yet this is what you want to cite as your reasoning. Maybe next time see if you can even scratch the surface and not just catch a glimpse of a headline. Like I have said all along, go into the neighborhoods that need the help and tell them all is well in education today with tenured teachers at the helm of the classrooms in their failing schools. The American education system is nothing like it was when you went to school. Just think about the parking lot for a moment. When you were in school what did teachers drive? Many times it was a second hand, typical family car. Take a look at today's school parking lot and you see many high dollar autos, not all, but many more than one used to, and even in the low income neighborhoods. This is a reflection of the frustration with the American public seeing more and more teachers want to talk about being paid like professionals without putting in the time and effort it takes to be and maintain that standing to be called a professional. You decry corporations. What is the union? What is its purpose? It used to be to help the working conditions of its members. No more, they are corporate entities unto themselves to ensure the high standard of living of the bosses. So who is beholden to the corporation? I am not a union member, never have been, never will be. I am only accountable to those I work for - the students and their teachers. I am employed by a district but work for students and teachers. You should try it sometime. You are enrolled in the union, pay your dues, are compelled to support them. Dang, locked in with the corporate set. They are no more for the betterment of the education world than they are for blowing up the planet. They are for the betterment of themselves and you pay their salary. And take a look at who your infamous education-takeover-corporate philanthropists align with? Which party? Which mindset? Scary, isn't it. You're in a labyrinth of your own choosing and the door is right in front of you but you choose not to open it. Leave the union, step out on your own, work for your own mind and reasoning which should only be to serve innocent children who need the help of education in great public schools. They aren't getting it anywhere else. Children are constantly absorbing their settings and surroundings. Put them in a terrible school and that is what creates the connective synapses and paths of thought they develop functionality from. What is the difference between that and a great school setting? I will grant you this - I will switch and be all for tenure the moment you are willing to make a switch of all of the bad teachers to affluent schools and all of the great teachers to the neediest of locations. Then let's keep them locked in for a few years and see what happens. Let me know when you are ready to make that switch because then it would affect your own kids who you earlier said you wouldn't want in the bad teacher's class. Put your own kids in that class and a school full of similar adults and see how you feel. That is what millions of parents and students face each day, year after year. What would happen to those affluent, suburban schools? They would enroll their kids in a private school. Inner city folks don't have that luxury. You should either come and stand in what is reality or perhaps change your moniker, because you are nowhere close in either case.

From your same Salon article:

"I have a list of beautiful things the secretary has said about not reducing a child to a standardized test score, but then insisting, “Yes we will,” by demanding that students’ standardized test scores be used to evaluate teachers even though there’s no scientific research or evidence that says there’s any connection."


"Now I’m guessing if we had just used test scores back then to evaluate me, you maybe would have thought that I had suddenly become a really crappy teacher that year. Test scores alone wouldn’t have told you what happened. They wouldn’t have given you an analysis of why."

Why would one need research when there is evidence of teachers growing those students every day? It is a product of the classroom environment that a great teacher creates. All she had to do was take the previous year's scores, compare them to the scores after a year in her class and demonstrate growth if there was any. How difficult is that? And if she could not help those 12 students grow in that situation she should have asked for help, a change or left if unable to do it herself.

18 years of that very setting except usually a higher percentage of special needs population and in a low income neighborhood and never turned one away. Why? Because I knew they would get more from me and my class than anyone else at the school. No corporate influence, no outside assistance, nothing but hard work and dedication and an unwillingness to let the child stay behind.

The reason for no research? Maybe the NEA and AFT are afraid of what they'll find? If it were really the case they would be out to prove it and give their own research instead of saying it is untrue because there isn't any. Reminds me of pre-Renaissance and pre-Enlightenment dogma saying that the church knew everything that needed to be known and because they couldn't explain something empirically it just wasn't.

If you are sure of that argument, prove it. You can't because your claim is being proven false in thousands of classrooms every day by great teachers not focused on tenure but on children.

The February 2013 report to Secretary Duncan, For Each and Every Child: A Strategy For Education Equity and Excellence, focuses on key strategies needed to serve our most disadvantaged student population. The report supports appropriate tenure processes for teachers. Abolishing tenure is not recommended in the report and is being used as a strategy to distract the public from the crucial things that need to be done to support our most marginalized student populations.
The full report is available here:

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