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Teacher tenure is a protection, not a problem, LFT says

(Baton Rouge – March 5, 2009) Proposed changes to Louisiana’s teacher tenure laws are based on a flawed study that wrongly identifies tenure as “complicit” in keeping “ineffective teachers” in the classroom, Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan said today, adding that LFT will fight efforts to water down laws that protect teacher rights.

“Teacher tenure exists for two essential reasons,” Monaghan said “to protect educators from political or personal retribution and to guarantee their academic freedom to teach according to the best practices in their fields of expertise. Tenure in no way poses the kind of problem this study suggests.”

Monaghan said the Federation is releasing a position paper refuting the claims in the controversial report by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Chief among the faults in the Council’s report is the unfounded claim that Louisiana teachers “automatically” earn tenure after serving in a classroom for three years.

In the words of the report, "Louisiana's probationary period for new teachers is just three years and the state does not require any meaningful process to evaluate cumulative effectiveness in the classroom before teachers are awarded tenure."

“That is just as false as saying a student automatically earns a college degree after four years,” Monaghan said. “The tenure process is a rigorous one. Teachers must first pass a national exam, earn certification, and undergo years of mentoring and evaluation by local administrators.”

Before a teacher earns tenure, Monaghan said, it is easy for administrators dismiss those who fail to meet expectations.

Citing that flawed study, officials in the State Department of Education told reporters that legislation dealing with tenure is under consideration.

One such legislative proposal will be discussed at the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s March meeting. It would take away a teacher’s right to have a tenure hearing before the school board, and replace it with a hearing conducted by the superintendent of schools or a designee.

“That removes balance and fairness from the process,” Monaghan said. “The superintendent is the person who brings the case against the teacher. This change would make one person the prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner when a teacher’s career is on the line.”

Monaghan said the LFT is conducting a survey to gauge teacher reaction to the proposed change.

“We believe teachers will understand that such changes in tenure law are attacks on their profession and on their ability to teach,” Monaghan said. “We expect that there will be tremendous grass-roots opposition to these changes, and that lawmakers will get a loud and clear message from teachers in the classroom.”

To read the NCTQ study, please click here.
The LFT response is posted here.

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