Making tenure more than a timestamp

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Receiving tenure could be a major milestone in a teacher's career. Unfortunately for PK-12 educators though, states and districts have long abdicated their responsibility, making the prestigious perfunctory. Until 2009, not a single state was seriously considering a teacher's performance when they made their tenure decision.

How times have changed. Today, nine states make student learning the deciding factor in tenure decisions.

A recent study from Marcus Winters explores the impact of using value added measures in tenure decisions. Winters hypothesized several models for deciding tenure, applying a low, medium or high bar for earning it against different combinations of data (multi-year average, recent year data only, or two-year consecutive).

Turns out that any of these configurations would have pointed a district in the right direction overall. But they also produced quite a bit of variance in the numbers of teachers who were denied tenure. Interestingly, the model relying on two consecutive years of data proved more forgiving -- that is, giving more teachers tenure -- than the one that was based on an average of several years of data.

Winters sums up the balance: "If student achievement is our most pressing concern, we need to consider the possible consequences of VAM-based policies on whole districts, even as we acknowledge the potential for error in individual cases."