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Michelle Rhee on Tenure

When Michelle Rhee was the chancellor of Washington, D.C. public schools in 2008, she was convinced that tenure was hurting her students. Back then, she told The New York Times: “Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults. If we can put veteran teachers who have tenure in a position where they don’t have it, that would help us to radically increase our teacher quality. And maybe other districts would try it, too.”

Today, as the founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, a non-profit organization that fights against seniority-based tenure.
The fight against tenure has found a place in many state legislatures as well as with some governors.
Tenure was put in place to protect teachers from capricious firings but Ms. Rhee contends that  “a fifth-year teacher can be just as effective as a 20th-year teacher.” And tenure is achieved in K-12 systems only after a probationary period of 3-5 years.  In addition, tenure in K-12, unlike university tenure, does not guarantee a life-long job but merely “due process”.

Is the fight over tenure really a fight over higher paid, longer-serving teachers or student achievement? If given a personal choice over a doctor in a critical, possibly life-ending surgery, would you choose a more experienced doctor who has had a great deal of  experience in performing the surgery or a newly-hired, book-trained, technologically prepared surgery?  Who would Ms. Rhee choose?

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