New Lessons for Our Classrooms

Improving the education of African American Students Will Require A Stronger Teacher Workforce. Here's What it Will Take?

Tenure and Teacher Performance
While pro-union teachers like Thomas may find union condemnation misplaced, he does believe that the criteria for receiving teacher tenure needs to be changed. He is not alone. Only 10% of teachers say that tenure is a very accurate measure of teacher performance, while 42% say it is not at all accurate, according to teachers surveyed in a report released last year by Scholastic Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In some states, teachers can receive tenure after only two years on the job and with minimal to no evaluation of their job performance. Nine states do not require any evaluations of new teachers, while 23 states require only that new teachers be evaluated more than once each year, according to the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of leading civil rights organizations representing communities of color aimed at addressing the unequal American public education system. Only 16 states require that new teachers be evaluated early in the school year, even though studies show that early evaluation improves performance throughout the year. In some states, tenured teachers are required to undergo evaluations only twice in 10 years.

According to the Gallup/Phi Delta Kappa poll most teachers would actually prefer that they were held more accountable— 60% and 55% of teachers, in the Gates Foundation survey view student engagement and year-over-year progress of students as the most accurate indicators of measuring teacher performance. They also agree that their salaries should be tied to the quality of their job performance. Yet most still do not believe that financial compensation should be tied to student achievement.

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