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New York City School Board Offer Controversial Approach to Tenure

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New York City school boards were part of trying to pass a law relating to how teachers are assessed for tenure. Now, tenure ensures job security, meaning that teachers cannot be fired without just cause. But in Albany, the school boards wanted to implement a new procedure for deciding which teachers were to get tenure. And, this procedure was quite controversial—or, according to the teachers, flat-out appalling.

Rather than evaluating teachers by having supervisors observe them in the classroom, the New York City school boards wanted to use the standardized tests that are given to the students as a basis on which to evaluate the teachers. The student assessments are given to children in grades 3 through 8 to measure their knowledge of math and language arts.

According to the plan of the school boards, the performance of the students on these tests could be used to determine the knowledge and ability of the teachers of these students.

Not surprisingly, this plan has not been able to pass through the legislature. Using the standardized tests in order to evaluate the teachers is not a viable proposal. These assessments could not, after all, consider a teacher’s ability to manage a classroom or deal with parents or develop innovative classroom strategies with which to teach children having difficulties—or any number of other characteristics of a first-rate teacher who is deserving of having tenure.

Plus, the student assessments only cover two subjects—how would teachers of other subjects be considered for tenure under this plan?

School boards are made up of members who are elected by the county or who are appointed by the mayor—not of individuals related to the school or education, necessarily. Because of this, they may not be all that knowledgeable about how teaching works. Teachers want to be held accountable for their teaching abilities; however, this policy is not the way to make this happen.

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