The pandemic has focused our attention on the essential role of education to maintain our society and develop our youth. Teachers in the public sector have strengthened their protection through their unions and teachers in the private sector are still subject to the will of their principals and school boards.
It is time that school districts and private schools address the issues of both effective teacher security and effective teacher growth. Without both, our educational systems will continue to prevent the ultimate improvement of the educational services for our youth. Lifetime tenure is a vestigial concept that protects teachers and provides no mandated path for necessary growth. Teachers are granted life tenure after three years of quarterly supervision. Once they meet this three-year probationary period and are recommended for tenure, they are given lifetime employment unless they commit a criminal act.
In private schools that do not grant tenure, teachers are subject to the whim of principals and most assuredly to the political dialogues amongst school board members. Private school employees are “at will” employees who lack job security.
I propose that all schools adopt the concept of renewable tenure. The interval for renewable tenure should be set by the school’s board. Private and public school teachers should demonstrate their competency during the renewable interval. They should be formally reviewed every five years with employment subject to demonstrating the skills necessary to meet the needs of their student body. No one should be given lifetime tenure after three years and all professionals should have some protection of employment. Teachers need to continuously develop their skills and incorporate effective strategies into their daily teaching repertoires. Unless we provide the forum for professional growth and simultaneously protect the rights of teachers within limits of renewal tenure, we will not ensure the professional development of both the teachers and the system.
Gerald Kirshenbaum is a longtime educator, administrator, and principal of public and private schools. He is the founder CEO of Call Associates.