July 15, 2004
Arizona’s school districts have been examined inside and out through state testing and the federal No Child Left Behind Law.
Now it’s the teachers’ turn to be evaluated.
By the end of the 2005-06 school year, federal law requires all public schools to have only highly qualified teachers — meaning a bachelor’s degree, full state certification and proof they have indepth knowledge of the subjects they teach.
The mandate has school administrators questioning if the traditional practice of tenure will interfere with their ability to weed out mediocre teachers.
Tenure safeguards teachers against firing without cause and protects their jobs. The practice was put in place to protect teachers from arbitrary firings when there were no standards to measure performance and evaluations often came down to personalities. Tenure after two to five years of solid performance was seen as a sign of quality.
Democrat John Kerry supports teachers maintaining some protections against arbitrary firing.
Kerry is favored by education unions over President Bush who has made No Child Left Behind a cornerstone of his administration.
Joyce Lutrey, superintendent of the Higley Unified School District, said tenure is a hinderance "because people see it as an end in itself."
"Tenure sends the message that you’ve arrived," she said.
Former teacher and state Board of Education member Janet Martin agreed tenure isn’t that useful in today’s education world. Martin, who was instrumental in creating Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards test, said districts should motivate teachers with better compensation — not tenure.
Not everyone agrees.
Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, recently spoke out in favor of tenure at the National Education Association’s annual meeting.
Kotterman agreed tenure is not a sign of quality, yet she said she supports the practice because it assures teachers of a fair review.
In national public opinion polls, teachers said they support tenure primarily because it protects them from losing their jobs to new teachers who could be hired for less.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.