February 17, 2015

Educators 4 Excellence–New York teachers: Keep tenure but make it meaningful

Policy Team Recommendations Would Tie New York Tenure to New Evaluation System, Streamline Due Process Hearings

February 16, 2015 (New York) — As school districts, education leaders and New York’s courts debate the future of teacher tenure, Educators 4 Excellence–New York (E4E) members today issued a series of recommendations to preserve job protections but make tenure designations more meaningful. A team of ten New York City teachers started exploring teachers’ perspectives on current tenure regulations in August 2014, after which they spoke with experts, researched tenure policies and crafted recommendations that will elevate the teaching profession and benefit students.

“Our members want to make sure policymakers understand how teachers themselves would reimagine tenure and due process rather than leave it up to the courts to decide,” said Co-Founder and Co-CEO of E4E Evan Stone. “Teachers want a system that regards tenure as both a necessary protection from unwarranted dismissals and a rigorous, highly regarded milestone of the teaching profession.”

Overwhelmingly, teachers view tenure as a benefit important to attracting and retaining talent and agree that New York City has taken important steps to make tenure more rigorous, but they believe there is still room for improvement. New York City teachers must demonstrate effective teaching practice and meaningful student growth in order to attain tenure. Yet, the current process fails to consistently help teachers identify room for professional growth and areas of excellence in their practice. Instead, opportunities for feedback and growth are found through the annual evaluation system – a process separate from tenure designations. Teachers would tie tenure decisions to evaluation and support systems, as a natural outcome earned through exceptional performance and growth in the first three to five years.

E4E-New York members propose:

  • Tying teacher tenure to the new evaluation system, with three “effective” or two “highly effective” ratings within the first five years leading to tenure. Tenure designations would factor in a sixth year evaluation for teachers who do not meet this standard within five years but do secure high evaluation ratings in their fourth and fifth years.
  • Streamlining steps needed to complete evaluations with steps needed to secure tenure in order to eliminate redundant work on the part of both teachers and administrators, and align feedback and support across both systems.

E4E-NY members expanded on their tenure recommendations by also addressing improvements to due process for teachers accused of misconduct or incompetence. Recommendations focus on ensuring hearings are fair, and that actions resulting from findings center on what is best for students. To that end, E4E-NY members further propose:

  • Automatically dismissing teachers found by an independent hearing officer to have committed serious misconduct against students such as corporal punishment, verbal or physical abuse.
  • Limiting the timeframe for due process hearings to 100 days so that teachers accused of wrongdoing can either return to the classroom or be dismissed more efficiently.
  • Extending hearing officers appointments from one year to at least three years to discourage hearing outcomes from influencing reappointments the following year.

 “We are proud of the steps New York City has taken in recent years to strengthen tenure but we also recognize that we still don’t have a fully fair, efficient system that protects teachers and students,” said April Rose, a fourth grade teacher in Queens, N.Y. “Our vision for tenure is to set a high bar and a clear process, and in doing so, allow district and school leaders to focus on more pressing concerns like reducing attrition among educators in their first few years and creating safe, supportive school environments.”

To read the full report, visit http://www.educators4excellence.org/tenure.