This is a classic good intentions, bad implementation story of public policy. It should be hard to receive job protection, but good teachers should not be collateral damage. (No one is saying these teachers aren’t good, just not outstanding after three years). Deferring a tenure decision is the equivalent of being told that even though we’ve been living together for three years, I am still not sure if I want to commit on “that level.” Three years may seem like just a few years against this concept of “tenure” we’ve all developed, but it’s a long time to know someone’s warts. If you told your best friend or dad that someone said this to you in any other context, what would that person say to you? Move on. There’s plenty of fish in the sea. You’re better than that.
Because that is what’s going to happen. This summer, these bright teachers in their mid-20s who feel betrayed are going to start spending time online, looking up graduate programs in other fields and non-profit careers where they can still make a difference without all the BS. Their friends and families are going to encourage them to do so and these schools and organizations will snap them up because the value that a GenY person with resilience and smarts adds is immeasurable.
Tenure is broken. But you can’t make decisions out of context- this is the system and the teachers you have while you try to change it. I have a feeling this was not the intent when superintendents were asked to be firm on tenure, but who knows?* What people constantly forget is there is a line between being hard on bad teaching and making the career unattractive for the people you want to attract. Someone in the policy room should be asking whether that line has been crossed before everyone leaves to make the new latest idea happen.
I’ve also been thinking about this because I had a hand in this. When I was Director of Teacher Recruitment, my office recruited teachers for one of the schools where no one was observed for three years. The principal was energetic and full of ideas and the teachers who were there in 2008 loved working with him, so I sent more in 2009. It’s a shame.
* This is not a project I consulted on for the NYC Department of Education and have no knowledge of how policies were developed. These opinions are my own.