Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Just Imagine...

 ...what the world would be like if no worker in America could be fired except under extraordinary circumstances as is the case with most public school teachers who have tenure.  Would the goods and services we all consume in our daily life get more or less expensive?  Become more or less efficient?  Provide more or less value?


Joel Shatzky, in a recent blog, recites the standard  arguments in defense of tenure which revolve around the need to prevent teachers being arbitrarily dismissed without due process.  Of course virtually every other employee in America lives under this threat, but has significant protections from it under existing law, however, Shatzky does not explain why teachers have historically been more susceptible to arbitrary dismissal  than anyone else.

Looking ahead he is concerned with the possibility that teacher evaluations would threaten job security and therefore the necessity for tenure becomes even more important. The problem, Shatzky goes on to argue, is that teachers should not be evaluated on what they cannot do, which remarkably he claims is to educate a large portion of the student population.

He states that teachers cannot make a student who comes from an environment that does not value or encourage education learn. This problem is then compounded when this student is surrounded by other students from similar backgrounds.  Finally he argues the greatest cause of poor education is not how much money is spent, not the quality of teaching, but whether the student is raised in poverty or not.  As such Shatzky argues that tenure, or lack thereof, makes no difference in educational outcomes for many students because teachers cannot overcome the negative influences many students experienece in their home environment

This does beg the question as to why we spend so much on teachers and indeed why they need tenure if they have a limited ability to overcome external issues and actually provide students with what they are paid to do, which is give them a good education?

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