In a Missourinet article, Mrs. Cunningham gave her stamp of approval to Sen. Tom Dempsey's proposal that the amount of time it takes Missouri teachers to receive tenure be increased from five to 10 years.
Cunningham says the ten-year standard will keep the pressure on longer for teachers to perform well and keep improving.Meanwhile, in the same article Dempsey raises the argument that is always used against teacher tenure- no other job has it.
She says it gives school boards five more years to decide if a teacher is effective. The definition of “effective” will be up to each district.
Cunningham does not believe the change in law will discourage students who want to be teachers from getting their degrees or teaching in Missouri. “The higher you raise the stakes, the more people want to meet it,” she says. She says many don’t want to be teachers because the current process “encourages mediocrity”
She says the more respect teachers are given for their effectiveness and “paying them for their performance and what they’re worth, the more we’re going to get those kind of teachers.”
That is true.
It is also true, however, that no other job has people who will specifically run for a seat on a board of education to get rid of a particular teacher.
No other job has veteran teachers who would be shoved to the curb so sports-minded administrators can hire coaches who are only certified to teach in certain areas.
What some Missouri legislators do not seem to understand (or more likely, don't care) is that Missouri tenure is far more difficult to obtain already than tenure in other states. Where most states set tenure at three years, Missouri teachers have to teach five years before achieving tenure on the first day of their sixth year of teaching. If the teacher leaves his or her school district, the tenure clock starts again at zero. I taught nine years before achieving tenure on the first day of my 10th year.
Tenure does not guarantee a teacher a spot in the classroom for life, as its opponents seem to insist is occurring. What it offers is a guarantee for a hearing if you want to remove a teacher with tenure. And this is not like the highly-publicized situations in a few states where the process drags on and on.
In Missouri, the hearing takes place before the board of education and the whole process takes only a few weeks, not years.
Tenure is not keeping bad teachers in the classroom. Most bad teachers are either caught during those five years by administrators, usually early in the process, or they simply get out of the business because they are not cut out for it (or just as likely are tired of being in a business where their lives are in the hands of legislators like Jane Cunningham and Tom Dempsey).
Once again, we have attention-seeking legislators (or ones with a grudge against public school teachers, like Mrs. Cunningham) who seek to perpetuate the myth that Missouri classrooms are filled with bad teachers, and somehow, against all logic, are trying to sell the fiction that students would be better off with inexperienced teachers.
Thankfully, the Missouri State Senators will have to vote by roll call Tuesday and not pass this measure by a voice vote as they did Thursday. Let's get this vote on this record.
Make no mistake about it. A vote for the tenure portion of SB 806 is not only a vote against Missouri teachers, it is a vote against Missouri children.