I offered Dave Comerford of the Illinois Federation of Teachers an opportunity to respond to the Small Newspaper series on teacher tenure that I wrote about earlier this week. It seemed only fair, since the series is pretty hard-hitting.
The Small Newspaper Group series on tenure is unfortunate, misleading, and in some cases flat out wrong. The Illinois Federation of Teachers believes a number of points need to be made:
* Sixty-five percent of school districts have successfully dismissed a tenured teacher. The tenure process simply gives teachers due process rights when there is a dispute.
* In many cases, tenured teachers resign before a dismissal hearing is held. That data is not tracked by the ISBE, giving a misleading picture of the number of teachers actually removed from the classroom.
* School administrators are required by law to be trained in proper evaluation procedures. There is no reason for an administrator not to give a bad evaluation to an employee who deserves one.
* The four-year probationary period for teachers allows ample time for administrators to decide which employees to retain. Nearly half of teachers leave the profession in the first five years of employment.
Again, teachers leaving the profession who decided they could not handle
the demands of a teaching career would not show up in the numbers tracked by the reporter.
* The IFT does not support keeping bad teachers in the classroom, but believes strongly every teacher has a right to a fair hearing.
* Legal fees for most dismissal cases are less than half of the $100,000 figure used in the newspaper article. Dismissal hearings usually last 2-3 days. Well documented cases take even less time for an attorney and the cost is even lower.
* In 1997, the IFT supported legislation that reduced the remediation period from 1 year to 90 days. The IFT also supported legislation requiring continuing professional development for teachers that is mandatory for them to keep their certification.
* The Cicero case that the reporter cites involved a school employee, not a classroom teacher, who worked in multiple classrooms and was not supervised adequately. The article implies that the dismissal process for the employee stretched out over seven year s. This is not true. As soon as the district attempted to dismiss the employee, she resigned. The case did not go to hearing. Tenure played no role in this case.
* The reporter attempts to bury the fact that the assistant principal in East St. Louis was acquitted. Later, when DNA testing proved the allegations, the district fired the employee. Again, tenure was not the reason for the assistant principal remaining on the job; his acquittal by a jury was.