Teacher Tenure Reform: Applying Lessons from the Civil Service and Higher Education


Teacher Tenure Reform coverThis paper from Public Impact—one in a series
entitled “Building an Opportunity Culture for America’s Teachers”—analyzes four
design elements of teacher-tenure systems (time to tenure, criteria for tenure,
the process for conferring tenure, and tenure protections) through the lenses
of the K-12, civil-service, and higher-education sectors. While all three, for
example, have strong protections in place, the higher-education
system allows
for a dynamic array of rewards that the K-12 sector
does not, such as increased pay, responsibility, and status. Similarly,
civil-service sector promotes high performers, allowing those who excel
to climb ranks quickly, whereas the K-12 sector offers no such
incentives. Most
interestingly, the paper articulates a new design framework, dubbed
tenure.” In this model, teachers would be eligible for tenure after six
as an educator (because the new teacher learning curve flattens at year
five). Districts
would only award tenure to the top 10 to 25 percent of educators and,
much like
national board certification, the applicant would have to prove
Finally, regarding dismissal: While the burden of proof would be on the
employer, this new “elite tenure” system would provide broad grounds for
dismissal, keeping some onus on the employee. Ideas from this paper
aren’t a
cure-all, but at a time when we need tangible remedies to fix our ailing
system, they are a great chicken noodle soup.

Public Impact, “Teacher
Tenure Reform: Applying Lessons from the Civil Service and Higher Education
” (Chapel Hill, NC: Public Impact,