February 17, 2015

Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles teachers: Keep tenure but make it meaningful

Policy Team Recommendations Would Lengthen Process for Achieving Tenure, Tie Tenure to Other Growth Opportunities

February 16, 2015 (Los Angeles) — As California school districts, education leaders and court systems debate the future of teacher tenure, Educators 4 Excellence-Los Angeles (E4E) members today issued a series of recommendations to preserve the job protections but make tenure designations far more meaningful. A team of nine Los Angeles teachers spent four months researching tenure regulations, surveying other teachers’ perspectives and experiences, as well as those of parents, students, and administrators, and writing their recommendations.

“Policymakers need to hear the nuanced perspectives teachers have about tenure,” said Executive Director of E4E-Los Angeles Ama Nyamekye. “Educators want tenure to provide protections from unwarranted dismissals, but they also want tenure to be a rigorous and highly regarded milestone recognized and celebrated by education leaders, peers and the public.”

Overwhelmingly, teachers view tenure as a benefit important to attracting and retaining talent but agree that current tenure systems do little to encourage excellence or elevate their profession. One teacher on the team with 30-plus years of experience couldn’t point to one professional accomplishment related to her tenure designation.

In California, teachers receive tenure, known as “permanent status” in California, on the first day of their third year in the classroom. As a result, permanent status designations put incredible pressure on school sites to make high-stakes decisions about teachers' careers after just two years. Administrators who do not believe a teacher is ready for permanent status within this timeframe are left with no other option than to dismiss the teacher. In reality, the timeline is even more constrained, as administrators must file paperwork after just 18 months in order to meet state deadlines. In light of this challenging dynamic, team members recommend a longer timeline for determining tenure and a process that accounts for classroom effectiveness, encourages professional development and leads to leadership opportunities.

E4E-Los Angeles members propose:

  • Requiring teachers to obtain a clear credential and earn at least two consecutive “effective” evaluation ratings or higher within five years to earn tenure.
  • Allowing up to two one-year extensions on tenure designations for extenuating circumstances (e.g. extreme illness, administrator turnover or maternity leave).
  • Incorporating multi-measure evaluations, including input from multiple perspectives, and a portfolio demonstrating professional growth in deciding tenure designations.
  • Instituting a regular renewal process.
  • Connecting tenure to new avenues for professional development and career growth.

“Quality teaching and a high-quality education are inextricably linked,” said Laurie Walters, an LAUSD teacher of over 30 years. “Our recommendations in this paper look toward the future, on behalf of our profession and our students, and come to a new understanding of tenure as a meaningful professional milestone that reflects growth and a strong focus on student achievement.”