What is Teacher Tenure?

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Teacher Tenure

teacher tenure
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Teacher tenure, sometimes referred to as career status, provides job security for teachers who have successfully completed a probationary period. The purpose of tenure is to protect outstanding teachers from being fired for non-educational issues including personal beliefs or personality conflicts with administrators, school board members, or any other authority figure. 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. Tenured teachers have certain guaranteed rights that protect them from losing their jobs for unsubstantiated reasons.

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 tenure status. Tenure does not transfer from district to district. If you leave one district and accept employment 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 also again start over.

Tenured teachers are entitled to due process when they are threatened with dismissal or non-renewal of contract. This process is exceedingly tedious for administrators, because just like in a trial case, the administrator must show proof that the teacher is ineffective and failed to meet district standards in a hearing before the school board. This is a difficult, and often painstaking task as the administrator must produce definitive evidence that they gave the teacher the support and resources necessary to correct the problem if it is an issue relating to teacher performance. The must be able to show proof that the teacher willingly neglected their duty as a teacher.

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.  A probationary teacher must prove that they bring value to the district, or they risk their employment status.

Pros 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. For example, 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 can translate 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 more inexperienced teacher may come at a lesser cost to the district.

Cons 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 may become complacent because they know they are less likely to lose their job. Finally, opponents argue that 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 because it is such a difficult proposition to remove a tenured teacher.