The Sun's recent editorial ("Time to talk teacher tenure," Aug. 23) is a colorful piece, full of red herrings and false premises. But let's get at least one thing straight: tenure should not and does not mean "guaranteed employment." It simply means that an educator has the right to a fair hearing and investigation rather than being summarily fired because of an ultimately false accusation, because they chose to speak out on behalf of their students or because someone disagrees with a teacher's decision to teach, say, evolution. It's due process and that's it. All professions and employees should have such protections.
The answer to "professionalizing teaching," as The Sun put it, is not to gut tenure, as is the current goal of the far-right groups often secretly funding the current anti-tenure efforts. Instead, we need to create more rigorous, supportive and teacher-led evaluation systems. We should use models like Montgomery County's Peer Assistance and Review program — a program that has helped thousands of teachers improve through peer support and helped many others exit the profession — and that is being developed in Baltimore, Howard and Prince George's counties. Teachers should have enough time to plan and collaborate — key ingredients to improving the quality of teaching and learning — and new teachers should be able to participate in mentorship programs. We also need to do all that we can to recruit and retain a professional teaching force by setting high standards for entry, encouraging rigorous and relevant training in education schools and ensuring that educators aren't left working second and third jobs to make ends meet.
We can't fire our way to excellence. We can only truly raise the profession — and student achievement — through reforms that may make for less exciting headlines but that are far more effective, meaningful and research-based.
Betty Weller, Annapolis
The writer is president of the Maryland State Education Association.
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