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Original post made
on Mar 25, 2014
The tenure system is a relic.
While a number of teachers are professional, diligent and genuinely motivated, there are, unfortunately, a proportion who will now slack off into mediocrity since they effectively attain union-protected employment and benefits for a lifetime.
The system has no accountability (see the movie: Waiting for Superman).
I agree with David P.
Another tool to perpetuate a status quo that began to fail several decades ago. As a society we assume our schools are doing their jobs while we're busy running the "Hamster Wheel of Life".If these teachers are doing so great a job then why does every Retail Strip in town now have some Tutoring franchise? Let's fix the problems not perpetuate a broken system. We need more accountability, not job security in the system.
My two PAUSD secondary students now have three tutors between them: English (for writing), Biology, and Math at $70/hour. Every one of their tutors is a former PAUSD teacher.
I disagree with all the comments stating that tenure is a "relic" and that tenure is "another tool to perpetuate a status quo." I whole heartily believe that PAUSD is one of the finest school districts in the area, if not California. The reason for this is because of the counselors and teachers that make PAUSD. We should be so blessed that we live in a school district that is so affluent and strives to hire and keep the very best employees. Instead of putting blame on the system, first look at yourself and make certain that you are inspiring, encouraging, and present in your children's lives to help them succeed. Too many of the families in the PAUSD don't find time for their children, but yet they are quick to blame the schools for the children's bad behavior, poor grades, and overall attitude. This is sad.
I want to give a huge shout out to Jordan Middle School especially the counselors like Meghan. She has made the greatest difference in not only our children's lives but ours as well. I'm happy that she is getting tenured this evening.
Waiting For Superman was a shocking movie, I recommend it to any parent that has not seen it. Get educated about education!
"who will now slack off into mediocrity" It would be great if they would stop the slide at mediocrity, but there is no stopping them as they go counterproductive and harmful.
We have dealt with PAUSD teachers, our kids are now home schooled for their own protection.
As usual, the last thing on the mind of anyone concerned is whether this is a good value for the average citizen or an effective way to improve the education of the children. It's all about escaping accountability and maintaining access to the gravy train.
Congratulations to all the newly tenured PAUSD teachers. You have the support of the vast majority of parents in this district.
Getting tenured at a university usually takes 4 or 5 years. Why does it only take 2 years to get tenured as a California school teacher?
Also, why are we giving tenure to school therapists and administrators?
And a personal anecdote, I will never forget this tenured social studies teacher at Gunn who gave
a teacher evaluation form to the kids with a quiz on the back of that same sheet. Very clever!
"I will never forget this tenured social studies teacher at Gunn who gave
a teacher evaluation form to the kids with a quiz on the back of that same sheet. Very clever!"
When handing out the teacher eval form, I heard that an English teacher at Paly reminded the students that he can recognize their handwriting.
Tenure is a difficult topic because we all certainly wish to "recognize" and "reward" fine people who go into the teaching profession and those who do in fact have subject knowledge and real teaching skills....I just don't agree we should continue with the tenure system. Teachers are not all equal "at each level." What a joke. Some shouldn't even be working as teachers, some fit an average standard, and a few are absolutely outstanding and should have significant merit pay and perks and status superior to the others. I don't agree with guaranteed employment. That isn't real world.
Why would they have teachers hand out the evaluation form versus having staff distributing them and compiling them on a computer program, thus keeping anonymity? And only two years until they are set for life and cannot be fired? Bogus. That said, my children have had these teachers and we congratulate them, as they are nice and conscientious teachers: Caitlin Evans, Ronnie Farrell, Mimi Park.
tenure is ridiculous - after two years? why not longer? tenure for therapists and admins?- i see at one teacher on the list who is not worth hanging on to
how are they held accountability? if I don't perform I run the risk of getting fired...even if i am part of my company's top performers program
It's hard to see how tenure after two years benefits kids. Teachers and teachers' unions of course, but kids is a stretch.
I don't know if it's the same one as Steve above, but I see at least one questionable name on this list. Nice person but confusing teacher. I believe the kids on this one.
Giving teachers tenure, PERMANENT POSITIONS for life, after only two years of teaching anywhere is a crime. There is no other job in the world where anyone working for only two years is guaranteed a job for life after that, without any accountability! Insane. In the real world, working professionals have to EARN the positions they hold (year after year) with a track record of success and positive performance reviews. There are amazing teachers in PAUSD. There are also some horrible teachers that refuse to retire with students paying the price. Principals know exactly who those teachers are but can do nothing to remove them.
Tenure is needed more now than it ever was before in Palo Alto. The teachers need some protection from the [portion removed] behavior of too many parents. I heard of a third grade teacher being threatened with a lawsuit because the parents did not like the substandard evaluation (not even binding grades) their child received. They completely overlook the fact that their child has failed to complete most of his assignments just as they overlook the fact that he is a bully and frightens kids around him. It seems parents have lost the ability to demonstrate respect - just look at some of the above comments!
I agree that it's a good idea to protect teachers, but there must be a limit.
"Academic tenure is primarily intended to guarantee the right to academic freedom: it protects teachers and researchers when they dissent from prevailing opinion, openly disagree with authorities of any sort, or spend time on unfashionable topics. Thus academic tenure is similar to the lifetime tenure that protects some judges from external pressure"
The term "academic freedom" gets stretched when teachers are on the job as ancient relics, jaded on the job, and just collecting the check.
While protecting them, there should be some way of negotiating solutions which are also good for the kids, not just the teachers.
Good bye, people, who tried to be teachers!
76 new indifferent robots will come to our kids tomorrow...
Tenure is ridiculous - after two years?
California should be ashamed of itself.
My child has had two of these teachers and there's NO WAY they should be tenured. We call the years my child had with them as "the lost years". Everyone knows that it takes more than two years to prove yourself.
The tenure system is one of the reasons is hard to sympathise with teachers when they complain about pay. If the teachers want to get the pay of the private sector, then they need to get rid of these ridiculous safety nets that guarantee employment.
"Giving teachers tenure, PERMANENT POSITIONS for life, after only two years of teaching anywhere is a crime."
Tenure in PAUSD is not a permanent position for life. It is not the same as tenure at a university or college. I really think school districts should use a different term to describe the employment situation to reduce the amount of hysterical outrage about it.
PAUSD needs to get into the 21st century and, like more progressive districts on the east coast, abolish tenure. No one deserves it, no other profession promises it, and it practically guarantees poor performance.
Everyone makes very good points about, but the two teachers with whom I am familiar from our school are smart, hardworking, really care about teaching - have really gone above and beyond the call as far as I have seen.
I really do not understand why ADMINISTRATORS would get tenure, though. I do not know the two listed about from students services, but right now everytime I see that phrase I feel like it should be listed in quotes and said with a large dose of irony.
I totally agree with "Get out of the stone age". Couldn't have said it better.
You only have to look at the recent witch hunt by parents in this district to understand why tenure for teachers exist. It's unfortunate that it has created a system where it is truly difficult to fire an incompetent teacher, however, it does protect competent teachers from overzealous parents and administrators.
I agree with "Get out of the stone age". As a person leaving corporate and becoming a teacher, I continue to be amazed that there is tenure. There is all of a sudden a 'relaxed' attitude once tenure is given. If teachers want to be paid like professionals and treated like professionals, then we need to also have performance evaluations yearly.
Tenure does not make sense -- or if it is argued that it should remain, make it be more than 2 years before someone has complete job security!
Tenure. The teachers union really has us by the throat. Notice
there is nothing we can do about it except vote against those who
perpetrated this scam. Sigh.
Check the thread about Three Principals Announce Retirement and read how bold and disrespectful a teacher suddenly becomes with today's tenure.
Let's understand the truth.
They call it "tenure", but in reality it is "passed probation without a crime". All these 'professional teachers' did was do a middle-level-acceptance job for 24 months. The district then has to answer the question: "did this teacher commit a crime or other fire-able offense?" If there is no actionable offense, then the teacher passes the probation period and then is no longer allowed to be dismissed (short of a Felony crime, a Misdemeanor results in being transferred out of District, known as passing the trash). That happens after the 24 month probation period, and they call it tenure, only because it becomes impossible to fire them afterwards.
But remember, "It's for the kids!"
"Tenure in PAUSD is not a permanent position for life. It is not the same as tenure at a university or college. I really think school districts should use a different term to describe the employment situation to reduce the amount of hysterical outrage about it."
Please provide PAUSD stats on how many teachers or other staff were fired in the last 5 yrs.
Zero? Okay, the go back 10 yrs.... Okay, now 15 yrs.
When nobody ever gets fired, it really is "permanent position for life".
The Union will litigate any and everybody who does get fired.
"it's fir the kids!"
This is one of my favorite Palo Alto Online articles every year. People are in an absolute froth! I'm a fairly competent teacher, I work hard, I try hard, but still every year there is at least one parent who just doesn't like me for whatever reason. One family went after me pretty hard. Should I have been fired? If I don't please everyone, does that mean I am incompetent? Would it really be a wise use of resources to have a parent-led firing squad every year? Every teacher at every school would need to answer to the one or two disgruntled parents in some sort of do-or-die hearing. Sounds excellent.
Also @Teach Me - Bold and disrespectful? Really?
Again with the piling on of the parents. In most other places I've lived, they can only dream of parents who are this involved, intelligent, giving of their time and money, with such good value of education, grounded, and supportive of the teachers.
To the teacher above, Juana Briones wouldn't have an art program, library program, playground equipment, lunch monitors, and much else if it weren't for the extremely involved and dedicated parents there. If you have been at that lovely school as long as you claim and you have such a negative attitude toward the parents, perhaps you should examine yourself. If there is ALWAYS one parent who is upset with you, perhaps you could examine your communication or teaching skills?
Of all my own years at Briones, I don't recall any family ever going after a teacher. Or do you perhaps not realize that usually if you are doing something wrong, usually not everyone will say something? It's usually just a few who are willing to step up and say something.
Tell me, do you think that when parents have issues, that it's always them? Do you think people are just overprivileged cranks if they want to communicate with you about their child?
My daughter said she completed a teacher evaluation at school on a computer so they have upgraded the evaluation methods.
Juana Briones parents have had a decades-long history of supporting teachers, but in the past few years the attitude of some of the teachers has been a bit surly. A change in teacher culture is needed, but only the teachers can decide and direct that. They are clearly in power there.
I'll try to respond to each paragraph here
"Again with the piling on of the parents. In most other places I've lived, they can only dream of parents who are this involved, intelligent, giving of their time and money, with such good value of education, grounded, and supportive of the teachers."
Love the parents. I hope my one comment about one or two difficult parents each year is not seen as piling on.
"To the teacher above, Juana Briones wouldn't have an art program, library program, playground equipment, lunch monitors, and much else if it weren't for the extremely involved and dedicated parents there. If you have been at that lovely school as long as you claim and you have such a negative attitude toward the parents, perhaps you should examine yourself. If there is ALWAYS one parent who is upset with you, perhaps you could examine your communication or teaching skills?"
Thanks for the help with all the programs and such. I don't think I expressed a negative attitude, did I? Just stating the facts. As far as there ALWAYS being a disatisfied parent - yes, I always examine my own teaching and communications practices. I always take these type of difficult interactions very hard - since I am really invested in my job.
"Of all my own years at Briones, I don't recall any family ever going after a teacher. Or do you perhaps not realize that usually if you are doing something wrong, usually not everyone will say something? It's usually just a few who are willing to step up and say something."
I doubt you were privvy to the internal workings of the school in all your years at Briones. It has not been my experience that PAUSD parents are hesitant to speak up (cough cough).
"Tell me, do you think that when parents have issues, that it's always them? Do you think people are just overprivileged cranks if they want to communicate with you about their child?"
I never think it's always them. I always look inward first. This is a complicated business I'm in.I have never stated, and I do not now think that PAUSD parents are overprivileged cranks. I invite communication with parents at any time, any venue, and I am willing to discuss any issue. Should these conversations be at the threat of my employment and career? Remember, the thread is about how tenure is this horrible disaster, and how these newly tenured teachers are an abomination. The alternative that I laid out in my OP doesn't sound so great.
So egocentric. I, I, I, I, I.
@Teach me - How does one answer direct personal questions without using a personal pronoun? Do tell! A person such as, well, a teacher, or other person who needs to be taught, would love to know. Sorry if I sound surly.
@ Anony Mouse,
>I don't think I expressed a negative attitude, did I?
Yes, you most definitely did. In the context of a thread where people were starting to pile on the parents again. Parents in this district are about as good as it gets in a public school. They are one of the best things about living here, in my experience. Are there a few you'd hear me complain about myself? Sure. But not in the context of piling on the parents, just after a thread where someone else accused parents concerned with bringing our district up to minimum standards of protecting disabled students like any other district in the country of being on a "witch hunt".
>"I doubt you were privvy to the internal workings of the school in all your years at Briones."
Perhaps if you know so much, you could tell me the name of the one tenured teacher there that all the parents year after year feel is coasting and a terrible teacher, but because that person is nice and it's just one year (and the other teachers are mostly pretty good), they let it be?
I know a lot more than you think.
Briones is a place where the parents tend to look at the whole child, and prioritize kids having a positive experience overall in elementary. But there are some very academic parents. They're not going to be happy with a teacher like that, I could see that. It's not my place to criticize them or force them to like it, I would hope the school could work with all types of families - they do put a lot of emphasis on differentiated instruction in principle.
> It has not been my experience that PAUSD parents are hesitant to speak up (cough cough).
That's because you are judging from the few (your own words) disgruntled ones who actually say something to you. As a parent, I heard all the stuff behind the scenes that they WOULDN'T say to you. So here you have once again denied piling on the parents, and you have once again, piled on the parents. (cough, cough)
>I never think it's always them. I always look inward first. This is a complicated business I'm in.I have never stated, and I do not now think that PAUSD parents are overprivileged cranks. I invite communication with parents at any time, any venue, and I am willing to discuss any issue. Should these conversations be at the threat of my employment and career? Remember, the thread is about how tenure is this horrible disaster, and how these newly tenured teachers are an abomination. The alternative that I laid out in my OP doesn't sound so great.
You didn't read enough of what was said above you (the piling on of the parents, witch hunt, etc), so your own sarcastic post above came across as a direct slam to the parents.
No, those conversations should not be to the threat of your employment or career, in fact, the teachers willing to dialog with parents are usually the best ones. But if you see strong parent involvement and feedback as threatening and negative all the time, then this is not a good district fit.
@ Anony Mouse,
Electronic communication is alienating. I love the teachers at JB, and the school is amazing. Thanks for remembering to say thanks and some GOOD things about them. I'm sure if we were in person, this would be a much more friendly conversation.
Stop by for a cup of tea sometime.
I'd love to talk about how much I love my students,
and how I love the parent support.
And how tenure is part of the complicated mix
that makes this job worthwhile.
It's mostly the students, though.
As a teacher who has worked in the district for awhile the problem is everyone thinks they're very special. Administrators think they are special, parents think they are special, teachers think they are very special , and everyone is especially special.Meanwhile the kids just want you to teach. Everyone pats themselves on the back for how great and wonderful they are, what a wonderful job they are doing and points their finger at everyone else. But I also as a side note observe that most parents at the end of the day just want a teacher to answer their email and communicate in a way that doesn't treat them like they are an irritating leper.
I hope that the "teacher" who wrote the above comment doesn't teach English grammar!!
Parent from Paly
"My daughter said she completed a teacher evaluation at school on a computer so they have upgraded the evaluation methods."
This is the sort of thing that should be Breaking News, but you'd not find this announced anywhere public. If it reverted back to teacher intimidation methods, we'd never know.
I agree with those wondering why administrators get tenured. WHY?!
There seems to be a misconception about protecting teachers and protecting a job. In real life, you don't get fired every time a customer complains about you. There is an annual review or record of your pluses and minuses on your job, an opportunity to correct your minuses, and an opportunity to highlight your pros. Employers want to see you do well, and the reward goes to the best people. If you are not good, you get replaced.
The teachers who are good would have nothing to fear from losing tenure.
Or you could just send your kid to an elite private school like Menlo, which until recently was run like a small fiefdom belonging to one administrator who could pretty much do and say whatever he wanted to the teachers with impunity. Teachers lived in fear of their jobs constantly, and more than one veteran teacher with years of experience and mountains of accolades from large numbers of parents was run out of a job for completely arbitrary reasons. In several cases this hounding was the result of the teacher running afoul of the wrong extremely wealthy and powerful parent, who was upset because Junior was not getting exactly what they wanted for him from that teacher, so they made it clear to the power-that-was that some serious donation money was at stake. Out the door with the teacher. In at least one other case it was simply a matter of a Peter-Principled middle-management administrator who just did not like a teacher, and got rid of them by fabricating poor job evaluations.
That's at least one alternative to tenure that you can take advantage of around here.
So we only have two choices? One, the PAEA union system in which employees are guaranteed employment after about a year and a half of working, and two, an elite private school where a local teacher alleges that the administrator could do whatever he wanted. No middle ground exists? Go reinvent your union and get some new scare tactics. They just don't have the shock power they used to have.
Collectively, and in total, we spend about $20 per student per hour of instruction.
Are we getting our money's worth?
Are the parents happy with that? Are the teachers? Are the kids?
(That's for the Bay area. Other states and districts spend less.)
A price of $20/hour is an absolute bargain for a high quality educational experience. Yes I am happy PAUSD parent.
"Or you could just send your kid to an elite private school like Menlo, which until recently was run like a small fiefdom belonging to one administrator who could pretty much do and say whatever he wanted to the teachers with impunity."
Because of tenure, this could describe every single classroom in public school. A teacher cannot get fired for anything, and the bad ones get a pass that is harmful to students. Multiply the effect of a bad teacher on the students and the years of a bad teacher's tenure.
I agree with Teach me that the tenure scare tactics get old, and there IS a happy medium. No tenure in public school, with a professional process for evaluating teachers. Why is it so scary to be judged year-to-year on merit? Maybe even do it every 5 years for teachers, but a lifetime job for an administrator is insane.
By the way, how do administrators get evaluated?
@ teacher evals: Teachers are evaluated every year in PAUSD, with every other year being a "formal" evaluation. If there is a problem with teachers being "given a pass", as seems to be a major beef in this thread, that's on the administrators. Everyone is in such a froth you'd think the ranks of teachers in this district are rife with incompetence, which is clearly not the case (the last time I checked, Palo Alto still had a reputation as a pretty amn good place to send your kids to school). I'd like to see some numbers on how many new hires do NOT get tenure. Tenure is NOT a guarantee of a job for life, despite all the righteously indignant claims that it is. There are crappy teachers, crappy administrators, crappy lawyers, crappy doctors, crappy managers, and crappy engineers. It's called reality.
Thank you for bringing up teacher evaluations, what is their point if there is complete job protection?
Reality is that doctors, lawyers, managers, and engineers do not have tenure. Funny how you cannot see the difference.
Recent article in the Mercury News:
Line to note: "Because of cumbersome dismissal procedures, Students Matter says, in 10 years only 91 of California's teachers, who now number 285,000, have been fired, most for inappropriate conduct. And, the group notes, only 19 were dismissed for unsatisfactory performance."
Only 19 unsatisfactory performances out of 285,000 in 10 years. Either the our teachers are nearly God-like, or there is undue protection of them. I tend to believe the latter.
I was talking to a parent who came from San Deigo to Palo Alto. They were amazed at the tenure system in Palo Alto. They claimed that San Deigo has not implemented the tenure system in their public school system and is one of the reason school there are among the best in California. Does anyone know the specific on why we have tenure in Palo Alto and if we could eliminate it?
I can see the value of tenure in college or university, but I have seen so many teachers who are checked out and administration has no way to motivate them or remove them as teachers.
Seems like this is really a serious issue, which should be addressed even if teacher union is apposed.
I don't understand why workers who get paid by public have work benefits that are different from other professions! Why do they need all the protection that they claim they deserve! Is government as an employer is so evil whose employees need special privileges! What is the interest of the government to mistreat its workforce so they need to protect themselves with tenureship. The profession that needs tenureship is probably journalist to protect free speech; but not, the gym teacher!
Good luck with the condemnation of any community member who dares to exercise free speech, not to mention anonymity, and criticize elected leaders or employees paid by public funds. It just doesn't have the power that it used to. Too much has happened in the past two years: lack of transparency, misuse of elected power, and the resulting lawsuits and other legal troubles that will take years to forget. It's almost a lie to characterize the California evaluation system as something that the principals are not doing correctly. We parents have pretty much figured out that if a principal dare exercise her professional judgment to improve a teacher, or even think of letting one go, then she will soon be looking for another principal position. Protecting teachers is a great idea, but tenure in PAUSD is a no-fire rule, basically. If teachers want to be trusted, then they have to trust the principals.
"It's almost a lie to characterize the California evaluation system as something that the principals are not doing correctly."
What is the "California evaluation system"?
While I support the principle behind tenure, I find the tenure system in K-12 ludicrous. Tenure at the university level is only granted after a consistent record of accomplishment in teaching, research, and service and generally isn't considered until the 6th year. The peer review process happens at the department, college, and university levels, followed by a provost review and presidential approval before tenure is granted. The two years required in the K-12 system means that the person has taught no more than a year and half before tenure is considered and granted. That makes no sense whatsoever. All but the worst can hold it together for 18 mos., but each teacher needs to show a pattern of consistently good teaching, ongoing improvement, and increasing leadership before tenure is granted. That just isn't possible so early in one's career.
As a retired teacher, I suggest the following solution: replace tenure with merit pay.
Before teaching in Palo Alto, I taught in a district in Connecticut which had merit pay.
Place the emphasis on rewarding talent, not on retaining the least possible common denominator of skill. administrators, in my experience, tend to be gutless when it comes to evaluating teachers. it is a terrible shame that truly mediocre teachers, and there are only a few, get the protection of tenure. they embarrassed the other teachers administrators tend to put them in classes where they will do the least harm, that is, teaching the lowest lanes which to me seems peculiar, since those students need the most help, and not babysitting. there is a reciprocation between the teachers union and the mass of teachers; unfortunately, this reciprocation is about job safety and power for employees and not achievement for students.
Merit pay would empower excellence and give administrators the positive power of recognizing exceptional performance. Teachers would work hard for that recognition.
Mediocre or nonperforming teachers would be shamed out of the system through comparison.
Merit pay strikes fear in the PAEA and CTA.
It's worth pointing out that Students Matter is the brainchild of a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who sends his own kids to a private school. Why is he so zealous about the public schools but won't send his own kids to one? Could there be private money interests that go beyond the "cry wolf" syndrome of blaming bad teachers and tenure for all the ills of the public education system?
"It's worth pointing out that Students Matter is the brainchild of a Silicon Valley multimillionaire who sends his own kids to a private school. Why is he so zealous about the public schools but won't send his own kids to one? Could there be private money interests that go beyond the "cry wolf" syndrome of blaming bad teachers and tenure for all the ills of the public education system?"
First of all, public education ranks right up there with National Security in the grand scheme of things. Every other developed country that the US compares itself to does not have job teacher job protection as the centerpiece of their educational system. Or at least they have more flexible systems.
Centralized educational systems don't have to deal with the political clout of teacher unions. In the US, negotiating with teacher unions is multiplied at each individual local board level. Kind of crazy if you ask me. It's not like we have nothing in common with the next town or the other. But let's say every town deserves this gourmet approach, tenure is still bad.
I can't blame interested parties with children in private schools for being concerned about the success of public schools, as it impacts the entire country.
$20 per hour per student is about what it would cost to send them to the best private schools. That comes out to a about a quarter million dollars per child over 13 years.
Another way to look at it: thats about $450K we spend per classroom. (in total. I know the teacher see's much less than that.)
In most school districts, and PAUSD is likely not an exception, over 90% of what goes out are salaries for teachers or administrators.
With tenure, it's hard to justify a tier of management that supposedly manages the schools if a few political teachers can challenge management anyway. There could be savings by skipping the school management structure and just have the teachers and the unions run the schools.
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