I've heard numerous intelligent and knowledgeable people argue for the abolition of tenure over the past few years. It's a pretty easy case to make: clearly, more than a few tenured teachers across the country do a disservice to our schools, and getting them shape up or ship out isn't always that easy.
But I have yet to hear anyone explain precisely how tenure, in an of itself, is hurting our schools.
I've heard people argue that many systems award tenure too quickly (NYC, for example, does it in three years). I've heard people argue that too many bad teachers earn tenure I've heard people argue that in some places tenure makes it too difficult to fire teachers. But these aren't arguments against the concept of tenure; they're arguments against the specific ways in which certain places have implemented tenure.
The fact that "bad teachers" earn tenure doesn't mean that tenure is bad, it means that principals aren't doing their jobs. If principals fail to fully evaluate teachers before awarding them tenure, how can we hold teachers responsible? And if principals know that the teachers to whom they're awarding tenure have shortcomings but make a calculated decision that they likely can't hire anybody better, I again fail to see how tenure, in and of itself, is at fault.
In an ideal school, I'd imagine a scenario something like this: new teachers are given copious amounts of support for their first couple years and given maybe five years or so to prove that they're capable teachers -- during which time they're under fairly intense scrutiny. Once a teacher has proven that they're competent, administrators can turn their attention to helping/evaluating newer teachers and have some peace of mind regarding the veteran teachers b/c they've proven that they know what they're doing. In such a scenario, the only way tenure could do harm is if teachers subsequently became worse because they'd earned tenure. And I'm not sure I've heard anybody make that argument. Nor have I seen any evidence that it's true.
So can somebody please explain to me exactly how tenure, in and of itself, destroys our schools? Because until I hear that elucidated I can't think of any reason why we should strive to eliminate, rather than modify, current tenure systems.