Dispatch from Soft America

Enterprising journalist Scott Reeder has proven what critics of K-12 teacher tenure have long surmised: it's nearly impossible to fire a tenured teacher. He collected every instance of disciplinary action, which no doubt includes everything from moral turpitude to ineffectiveness in the classroom, taken against a tenured teacher in Illinois's 876 districts over the past 18 years. The results:

- Just 61 of those districts even attempted to fire a tenured faculty member

- Of the 61 that tried, only 38 succeeded

- Of the state's 95,000 tenured educators, only 2, on average, are fired for poor job performance each year. (That equates to .002 percent.)

It costs a district, on average, $100,000+ in attorneys' fees to fire a teacher. Genesco Public Schools has been trying to fire Cecil Roth for five years for poor job performance and has spent $400,000 so far. The case is still on appeal. So bad is the problem that a number of schools have resorted to quietly paying off poor-performing teachers instead of firing them. Because these pay-offs include confidentiality agreements, no one knows how many tax dollars have been used in this way. This all means that, once tenured, teachers are essentially untouchable. Says Cicero Elementary School superintendent Clyde Senters: "There is not a lot that can be done to hold them accountable - because of tenure."

"Tenure frustrates drive for teacher accountability," by Scott Reeder, Small Newspaper Group

"Protecting mediocre teachers," Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2005 (Free registration required)

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