Conn. Superintendent Report: Eliminate Tenure For Teachers

Connecticut's superintendents have put forward an audacious report that looks to transform the state's entire educational landscape, writes Kathleen Megan at The Hartford Courant.

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents issued a report with 134 recommendations, including eliminating lifetime tenure for teachers, regionalizing school districts, personalizing education and making school calendars more flexible. The next step is to shape them into proposed legislation.

The most divisive of the proposals is the scrapping of lifetime tenure for teachers and replacing it with renewable five-year contracts.

Unsurprisingly, Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the state's largest teachers' union, the Connecticut Education Association believes that this proposal would "invite all kinds of abuses and capriciousness and a lot of volatility in our schools."

She highlights that the idea would harm efforts to retain teachers in urban districts, where teacher turnover is so high.

"We are trying to get teachers to stay for five years in some of these more challenging districts. We don't think students and parents are well-served by short-termers."

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the organization, said that if someone has "a better way" to deal with mediocre teachers than a five-year contract, "we're open to it," but that the recommendation was aimed at getting rid of teachers who are "mediocre."

He said that it's not hard to get rid of teachers who are incompetent, but "if you are mediocre and stubborn in your mediocrity, there is almost nothing we can do about it. We need to solve that problem."

The group also called for more consolidation of school districts or for regional arrangements to ensure that districts have the capacity to offer students a broad array of learning options, writes Megan.

"No matter where the child goes to school," Cirasuolo said, "they need to have access" to options and opportunities that match their personal learning style.

"The present division of local school districts into 165 separate entities…" the report said, "is economically inefficient and fosters economic, racial and ethnic isolation."

The Connecticut Council for Educational Reform are said to be encouraged.

Shana Kennedy, interim executive director, said that it was especially unusual to see superintendents recommend a strategy of regionalization that might result in fewer school districts and superintendents.

"It's definitely not the approach we've seen from superintendents in the past — to be so proactive," she said.

Ed Fisher at the Morning Sun points out that school systems have had to incentivize students into the industry using tenure, benefits and good retirement as the profession fails to offer the same attractions as high-wage, upwardly mobile private alternatives.

"Easy-to- measure proxies such as master's degrees and seniority provided the road to tenure and lifetime security."

But as the economy faltered many benefits have been curtailed, trimmed and some cut completely. While early retirement to replace highly experienced instructors with lower paid new teachers has had a devastating effect on morale.

Teachers want support, writes Fisher.

"They want parents to become more positively involved; school administrators should support teachers and recognize their contributions; they want modern, high quality materials in the classroom."

11 16, 2011
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