While teachers’ colleges may be handing out easy A’s, teachers and parents aren’t grading on a curve.
Last summer the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a landmark ruling in Vergara v. California that held students were denied a quality education because of tenure policies that made it virtually impossible to fire bad teachers—and replace them with better ones.
While the ruling is highly controversial in union and political circles, results from Education Next’s eighth annual survey of public and teacher opinion indicate many teachers may think the policy shift is long overdue. According to Education Next Editor-in-Chief Paul E. Peterson:
Survey respondents were asked to state the percentage of teachers in their local school district they think deserve one of the five grades on the traditional A-to-F scale. …
Teachers awarded 69 percent of their colleagues in the local school district an A or B. But teacher enthusiasm for their co-workers does not extend to all of them. Teachers report that 8 percent of their colleagues deserve a D and 5 percent deserve an F.
Parents’ grades for their children’s teachers were even lower—which is striking since parents typically give the schools their children attend high marks (although they give public schools nationwide much lower or failing marks). As Peterson continues:
Parents grade teachers more harshly. They give 56 percent of the teachers in the local schools one of the two top grades, and hand out a D to 11 percent and an F to 10 percent.
Union leaders could argue that the parents are blaming teachers for their own children’s faults, but they may find it difficult to explain away the fact that even teachers consider well over 10 percent of their colleagues to be woefully inadequate.
These findings have serious implications for teacher tenure laws across the country, as Peterson concludes:
The public seems to agree that something needs to be done, and that is where tenure laws come in. Survey respondents favor ending tenure by a ratio of 2:1. By about the same ratio, the public also thinks that if tenure is awarded, it should be based in part on how well the teacher’s students perform in the classroom.
Interestingly enough, a majority of teachers agree that change is needed. Only 41 percent of teachers both favor tenure and think that it should be unrelated to student performance.
Courts have yet to reach a final verdict on teacher tenure and seniority rights, but the court of public opinion has already made a clear determination.