What is FedTEP?

Teacher tenure increasingly takes the blame for failing to close the achievement gap at public schools throughout the county.  States granting tenure by the second or third year of on-the-job experience disadvantage themselves, students, schools, and districts.  Tenure needs to remain a goal of all teachers, enabling them to successfully enhance the performance of their students without threat of dismissal on false or discriminating grounds.  While no teacher should be granted a “job for life,” neither should a teacher be denied job security.  The following is a proposal for a Federal Teacher Equity Program (FedTEP), enabling districts to retain quality educators, eliminate ineffective teachers, and provide equity to all students within each district.

Since 1909, teacher tenure has been negotiated and legislated, beginning in New Jersey.  The goal was to diminish the dismissals of teachers based on non work-related issues, including, but not limited to: gender discrimination; maternity leave; principal, superintendent, or political bias.  While the list began small, most states now include: racial, religious, and sexual orientation discrimination.

In 1983, A Nation At Risk found that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”  The report urged states to strengthen educational standards, increase standardized tests usage, and reform tenure.

In 1985, the State of Illinois changed tenure laws, making it easier to dismiss ineffective teachers, which it averaged only 3 per year.  In the 18 years that followed, only 39 teachers were dismissed, making the law ineffective at removing inadequate teachers.

In 2008, 2.3 million teachers were employed in a tenured position.  These teachers underwent a 1-7 year process to achieve tenure depending on the State, district, and school in which they were hired.  While many states require evaluations prior to granting tenure, only one percent of teachers evaluated were rated as unsatisfactory.

Most states grant tenure within three years of hiring new teachers, disallowing teachers the opportunity to “show their worth, or their ineptitude.”   Post-tenure performance is not predicated on the first two to three years of teaching.

While the effectiveness of certain current tenured teachers is subpar, tenure is vital to the public education system. Tenure protects teachers from premature dismissal based on student accusations, legal threats by parents and guardians, controversial subject matter, economic factors (ex. budget cuts), and punitive evaluations.

The elimination of tenure will not affect school safety or cleanliness and reduced class sizes. Eradicating tenure will not cure overcrowding, underfunding, and unfortunate student home life.

The problem of tenure lies not in the institution, but in the tenure granting process itself.  Development of struggling teachers and evaluation belongs solely with administrators.  No State currently employs a “partly” developed and “meaningful” tenure granting process.  With no State able to present a coherent and effective tenure granting process, it is clear a Federal standard must be established.

FedTEP is required for all public school districts (excluding individual Charters and single school districts).

  • All schools in the same district are required to provide the same pay schedule to ensure pay equity.
  • Single school districts can opt in by associating with a larger neighboring district.  The pay scale must be equal to that established by the associated district.
  • Teachers can opt in or opt out of FedTEP, but recusal from FedTEP ensures the teacher will not receive tenure.  Non tenure-track teachers remain on the district pay schedule and accrue seniority, but are not required to relocate on a 5-year rotation.  Non tenure-track teachers are subject to an evaluation every other year in which they must remain Excellent or Proficient.  Failure to do so will result in review by district personnel.
  • Teachers who chose tenure-track must adhere to the following schedule for tenure:
    • Tenure-track is offered at 3 years with 3 consecutive Excellent or Proficient evaluations performed annually.
    • Probationary tenure is offered at year 5 with 5 consecutive Excellent or Proficient evaluations performed annually.  Failure to meet requires one additional year (up to 3) for Excellent or Proficient rating.
    • Year 6, regardless of status of Probationary tenure, rotation begins.  Teachers are relocated to a new school by lottery, ensuring that excellent educators are established in all schools, not only in affluent schools.  Rotations continue on a 5-year time frame.
    • Failure to meet full tenure requirements after year 8 requires a redress of issues, including in-depth assessment and suggestions for improvement.  After year 10, teacher is reassigned (by lottery) and requires 3 years of Excellent or Proficient ratings within a 5-year span.
    • The maximum timeframe for full tenure is 15 years; the minimum is 7 years.  This ensures dedicated and quality educators only will succeed in earning tenure.
    • Evaluations of full tenure educators will continue every other year.  One evaluation below Excellent or Proficient equals probation.  A second consecutive evaluation below Excellent or Proficient (at a new school location only) requires review.
    • Tenured teachers are not allowed to move from their district to a different district within the same municipality in the first three years of placement.  Districts will determine on a case-by-case basis of movement for teachers before this three-year mark.  Tenured teachers who move to another municipality and are hired into a new district within the same state will keep their seniority and maintain the same level on the pay schedule.  Districts and schools are not allowed to discriminate based on tenure or seniority in the hiring process.
    • Tenured teachers will remain within grade level groupings to ensure instructional continuity: grades K-1; grades 2-3; grades 4-5(6); grades (6)7-8; and grades 9-12.  Single subject teachers will remain in their field.  Non tenure-track teachers are not guaranteed placement within these grade level groupings.
    • Dismissal, review, and evaluation criteria belong to States.

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, claiming that basing layoffs on seniority harms “low-income students and persons of color.”  With a serious redress of the tenure granting process, schools and districts will no longer be subject to teacher dismissal based on seniority alone, evaluations must be considered.

With the incentives of job security, grade level placement, and more evaluative measures, tenure-track under this system is desirable.  Rotating teachers will be afforded these incentives through maintaining a high level of instruction in all school locations, raising the bar across the board.

The implementation of FedTEP will establish nationwide stringent criteria for professional growth and effectiveness at all levels of the public education system.  With quality instructors at all schools and levels, the achievement gap will begin to close.

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