New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have figured out teacher tenure is a sham. They're proposing two changes which may make the process work better. First, they are going to require principals to fill out a form recommending a teacher for tenure. Sound silly? Not really. If ever there was a need for some paperwork and lots of it, it's regarding tenure decisions. Currently New York and most districts across the country award tenure by default. If a teacher doesn't leave before the probationary period is up (which ranges from one to five years in 50 states), he or she gets tenure automatically. Second, New York is pledging to educate its principals on their right to refuse to grant tenure. More silliness? No. Many principals don't know that tenure isn't a given.
All good stuff from NYC, but the real challenge is for states to lengthen the probationary period teachers must complete to five years. Only two states currently make teachers wait five years. In big urban districts, too many teachers each year are eligible for tenure, making it nigh impossible to put in place a serious process.