Center for American Progress

NEW REPORT: States Have a Long Way to Improve Teacher Tenure
Press Release

NEW REPORT: States Have a Long Way to Improve Teacher Tenure

New Report from the Center for American Progress Provides New Data on Teacher Dismissal; Analyzes Current and Past Teacher Tenure Reform Proposals; and Highlights Recommendations for Policymakers

Washington, D.C. – States have done remarkably little to reform their policies by which new teachers are granted tenure. The extremely low rates of dismissal for chronically low-performing but tenured teachers means that most tenured teachers are essentially employed for life regardless of their success in teaching their students. These findings come from a new report from the Center for American Progress that was written by political science professor Patrick McGuinn called “Ringing the Bell for K-12 Teacher Tenure Reform.” The report provides new data on teacher dismissal; analyzes current and past teacher tenure reform proposals; and highlights recommendations for policymakers.

The report also presents for the first time new state-by-state data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Schools and Staffing Survey that shows that school districts dismiss or decline to renew the contracts of only 1.4 percent of tenured teachers each year. And some states like Nevada dismiss as few as .3 percent of tenured teachers each year. The extremely low rates of dismissal for tenured teachers, and the fact that dismissal is generally pursued for egregious conduct violations, means that tenured teachers in most states enjoy the functional equivalence of employment for life.

The report also finds that both the tenure granting and tenure revocation processes ultimately depend on the underlying district teacher evaluation systems to function effectively, but these are also deeply flawed. Unfortunately, in most states teacher tenure processes remain largely disconnected from teachers’ performance in the classroom or student achievement.

Read full report here.

Recommendations include:

  • The federal government should leverage education funding to push states to develop more meaningful teacher evaluation systems based on a clear definition of teacher effectiveness. Such evaluation systems are an essential precondition for effective tenure reform but have been missing from most previous state tenure reform proposals
  • The U.S. Department of Education should fund demonstration programs that will provide empirical evidence of how effective different kinds of teacher tenure policies are on raising teacher quality and student achievement
  • Empirical evidence should be the basis for a serious—and unprecedented—conversation among policymakers as well as the general public about the costs and benefits of teacher tenure and the circumstances under which it should be granted and revoked.
  • States should reform their tenure laws to explicitly mandate that teacher retention and dismissal decisions incorporate teacher effectiveness data.

Read full report here.