Tenure

2015 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

2015 Goals for Tenure

The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Best practices

Colorado, Connecticut and New York appropriately base tenure decisions on evidence of teacher effectiveness. In Connecticut, tenure is awarded after four years and must be earned on the basis of effective practice as demonstrated in evaluation ratings. Colorado requires ratings of either effective or highly effective for three consecutive years to earn tenure status, which can then be lost with two consecutive years of less-than-effective ratings. New York has extended its probationary period to four years and requires teachers to be rated effective or highly effective for three of those years. All three states require that student growth be the preponderant criterion of teacher evaluations.

Best practice 3

States

Meets goal 2

States

Nearly meets goal 7

States

Meets goal in part 7

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Meets a small part of goal 10

States

Does not meet goal 22

States

Progress on this goal since 2013

  • Improved
  • Stayed the same
  • Regressed
How we graded

Research rationale

Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career.
The decision to give teachers tenure (or permanent status) is usually made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual performance. State policy should reflect the fact that initial certification is temporary and probationary, and that tenure is intended to be a significant reward for teachers who have consistently shown effectiveness and commitment. Tenure and advanced certification are not rights implied by the conferring of an initial teaching certificate. No other profession, including higher education, offers practitioners tenure after only a few years of working in the field.

States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions. Most states confer tenure at a point that is too early for the collection of sufficient and adequate data that reflect teacher performance. Ideally, states would accumulate such data for four to five years. This robust data set would prevent effective teachers from being unfairly denied tenure based on too little data and ineffective teachers from being granted tenure.

Tenure: Supporting Research
Numerous studies illustrate how difficult and uncommon the process is of dismissing tenured teachers for poor performance. These studies underscore the need for an extended probationary period that would allow teachers to demonstrate their capability to promote student performance.

For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see D. Goldhaber and M. Hansen, "Assessing the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Calder Institute, February 2010, Working Paper 31.  Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class.

For additional evidence see R. Gordon, T. Kane, and D. Staiger, "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," The Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, The Brookings Institute, April 2006.