Tenure: California

Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness. This goal remains unchanged in 2021.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2021). Tenure: California results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/CA-Tenure-97

Analysis of California's policies

Link to Evidence of Effectiveness: California does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Basis for Tenure: California awards tenure automatically after the probationary period; it is not based on an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Citation

Recommendations for California

Ensure that tenure decisions are based on evidence of effectiveness.
California should make cumulative evidence of effectiveness, rather than number of years in the classroom, the basis for awarding teachers the leap in professional standing that tenure represents.

State response to our analysis

California recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that to provide a relevant response to this goal and accompanying analysis, "objective evidence of student growth" needs definition. Also, California noted that "cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness" appears to boil down only to whatever is meant by "objective evidence of student growth." The state wondered if that was the intent. 

Updated: March 2021

Last word

Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career. 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, rather than a decision made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual performance. Therefore, the intent of this goal is to encourage states to require a process that evaluates cumulative evidence of effectiveness throughout the entire probationary process.

Regarding the use of student growth to measure teacher effectiveness, California is invited to review NCTQ's research rationale at the bottom of the "Measures of Student Growth" goal. Additionally, NCTQ does not prescribe the types of measures of student growth used by states, but only that they are objective. Some examples of objective measures of student growth, in addition to statewide standardized assessments, are: student learning objectives (SLOs), district-level pre- and post-tests; and teacher-developed assessments. For teachers of non-tested grades and subjects specifically, student growth measures may include: teacher-set goals for student learning; student performance assessments, including portfolio projects, problem-solving protocols and internships; teacher-developed assessments; standardized assessments; and district-established assessments.

How we graded

9B: Tenure

  • Evidence of Effectiveness: The state should require:
    • That tenure decisions be based on cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness in the classroom, as measured by objective evidence of student growth.
The total goal score is earned based on the following: 

  • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if it bases tenure requirements on a process that evaluates cumulative evidence of effectiveness, and if the state's evaluation system requires the inclusion of student growth. 
  • Three-quarter credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if it bases tenure requirements on evidence of effectiveness, as measured by student growth, but does not use cumulative evidence of effectiveness. 
  • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if an evaluation process exists for granting teachers tenure, but the process does not require evidence of student growth.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions.[4] 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.


[1] For evidence on the potential benefits of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see: Loeb, S., Miller, L. C., & Wyckoff, J. (2015). Performance screens for school improvement: The case of teacher tenure reform in New York City. Educational Researcher, 44(4), 199-212. Retrieved from http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Performance%20Screens.pdf
[2] Gordon, R. J., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/identifying-effective-teachers-using-performance-on-the-job/; 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. See: Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Assessing the potential of using value-added estimates of teacher job performance for making tenure decisions (Working Paper 31). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001369_assessing_the_potential.pdf
[3] 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: Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Assessing the potential of using value-added estimates of teacher job performance for making tenure decisions (Working Paper 31). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001369_assessing_the_potential.pdf
[4] For additional evidence, see: Gordon, R. J., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/identifying-effective-teachers-using-performance-on-the-job/