Could redesigned K-12 teacher tenure actually improve student learning?
Could redesigned K-12 teacher tenure actually improve student learning? Could it help to grow the size and power of an elite teaching corps that reaches far more children? This paper examines lessons from higher education and the civil service and applies fresh thinking to offer new “elite” and “inclusive” tenure designs and a framework for policymakers who want to make tenure meaningful. Today, K-12 tenure is granted to nearly all teachers, with almost no criteria, and within the first few years of teaching. As a tool to strengthen our nation’s schools and children’s prospects, tenure has failed. The culture of tenure and costs of associated pay scales also have created a nearly universal glass ceiling for the best teachers. But discussions about tenure nearly always fall into the “keep it or scrap it” camps. This paper inserts level-headed thinking into the K-12 tenure debate. A brief presentation, prepared for the Joyce Foundation, outlines key findings.