Catherine Rampell: Eliminating teacher tenure won’t improve education

Making it easier to fire bad teachers isn’t going to magically cause the educational achievement gap to disappear. You need to be able to attract and retain more good teachers, too.

Unfortunately, no one wants to pay for that.

This week a California judge declared that tenure and other seniority rules that make it hard to dismiss teachers “result in grossly ineffective teachers obtaining and retaining permanent employment,” which hurts the low-income and minority children that low performers disproportionately teach. Almost exactly 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the California judge said that state statutes violate children’s constitutional right to equal educational opportunity. The decision looks likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers said similar suits would soon be filed in other states.

Teachers’ unions, predictably, denounced the decision as further trampling on their noble profession. The Silicon Valley group that bankrolled the case hailed it as an unalloyed victory, one sure to give America’s poor and minority students access to better teachers. Both sides claim they are fighting for The Children. Who’s right?

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About JHU School of Ed

SOETalk is an outlet for news, information, commentary and debate on the world of education with a focus on what affects students, prospective students and alumni of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education.
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