The once venerated status of teacher tenure is now under assault in the states of Indiana and Louisiana. Parts of an article written by Ben Wieder for STATELINE seem to support this claim. Those who choose to teach are already making significant concessions from a salary point of view and now they will have to endure the stress and agony of having to earn an evaluation of “highly effective” for 5 consecutive years before achieving academic tenure in Louisiana! Can you imagine how you would feel if you earned a “highly effective” rating for 4 consecutive years only to be denied because some administrator did not like you or you had a class full of dumbasses with whiny parents who shot you down?
One of the components of achieving a “highly effective” rating will be determined by student performance. This opens the proverbial can of worms as struggling teachers will be faced with the ethical dilemma of “teaching to the test” in order to hang on to their jobs. In a profession where low pay is quite prevalent, the stress of dealing with being constantly evaluated by questionable metrics of your teaching ability could drive many instructors to the private sector THEREBY leaving the teaching profession in more pitiful state than it is already in!
Tenure should be hard to get, but once you earn it you should not have to stress too much on your job security. You chose a teaching position over higher paying private sector employment to pursue your passion and NOT to be hassled by administrators who usually have no clue how a classroom should be managed!
Evaluations Drive Compensation
Teachers will now earn one of four ratings, ranging from “ineffective” to “highly effective,” on the basis of student performance, administrator observations and whatever other factors a district chooses to include. Schlegel says that the new evaluation system will provide younger teachers more support. “They’re going to get far more feedback, good or for bad, than any other first-year teachers,” she says.
The state has developed an evaluation model, called RISE, that 70 to 80 percent of districts are planning to use next year, according to the Department. The model calls for two extended observations and at least three shorter observations by representatives of the school administration, with feedback and professional development tied to the results of the evaluation.
Dani Barkey, an assistant principal at Lakeview Middle School, in Warsaw, Indiana, says that while her school is still figuring out how to fit the extra evaluations into the busy schedules of administrators, she’s excited to spend more time with teachers in the classroom. “I think that we’ll become much closer with our teachers in a coaching capacity,” she says. She was among several administrators from the Warsaw Community Schools looking to hire new teachers at Ball State.
For those potential new teachers, the idea of more frequent evaluations with performance measures isn’t particularly daunting. “We’ve been experiencing this in school,” says Jessica Hall, a Ball State senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana. “It’s all we know.”
What does concern Tami Stone, a graduate student from Pendleton, Indiana, is that she could suffer if outside factors, such as an unstable home life, affect her students’ performance. “I’m all for accountability,” she says, “but there are a lot of things that are out of my control.”
New teachers will be considered “probationary” until they achieve the highest evaluation ratings, “effective” or “highly effective,” for three years in a five-year period. At that point they become “professional,” but until then, one rating of “ineffective,” the lowest rating, or two of “improvement necessary,” the second lowest, makes them eligible to be fired.
“It’s really emphasizing the sink-or-swim mentality,” Pike says.
Is Teacher Tenure Obsolete?
While Indiana’s current tenure system hasn’t made it impossible for teachers to be fired, the new system will make it easier for all teachers, both new and experienced, to be let go. One ineffective year can bump professional teachers back to probationary status, where another ineffective year can lead to dismissal. The new system also makes it easier for current teachers who have achieved tenure, those considered “established,” to be fired. After two consecutive ineffective years, or achieving one of the two lowest ratings in three out of five years, the veteran teachers could be let go. About all tenure really provides them is an extra year before dismissal can be considered.
Indiana is one of many states that have made major changes to their tenure laws in recent years.
Some, such as Idaho, have done away with tenure entirely. This year, Louisiana made tenure harder to get as part of a series of sweeping education changes.
Under the new Louisiana law, teachers must be rated as “highly effective” in the state’s evaluation system for five consecutive years before they can be granted tenure. “We are going to see a shift toward teachers that are non-tenured in the future,” says Stafford Palmieri, an architect of the Louisiana law and policy director for Governor Bobby Jindal. “Tenure has become obsolete.”
For the next class of teachers at Ball State, the question of tenure is a vexing one. Students say they agree that the laws should have been changed to make it easier to remove ineffective teachers, but that they saw tenure as one of the few perks available to them in a profession not known for its lucrative pay.
Jessica Trosper, for one, doesn’t think tenure is necessarily obsolete. The Ball State senior from Columbus, Indiana, says she’d like the opportunity to earn it one day, albeit for what she sees as the right reasons. “I would like to have it because I’ve proven that I’m a great educator,” she says, “not just because I’ve worked for two years and they’ve given it to me.”