Tweed is the failure — not new teachers

The percentage of teachers denied tenure this year — just 2 percent — is the same as it was five years ago.

Yet that did not prevent the Department of Education from crowing that, for the second year in a row, only a bit more than half of probationary teachers were granted tenure.

To be exact, just 55 percent of public school teachers eligible for tenure this year received it, down from the 58 percent who were granted tenure last year and way down from the 97 percent who got it in 2007.

The mayor boasts that this is evidence that the DOE is serious about teacher quality. We think there is a different, more important story to tell.

Nearly one-third of the teachers hired for the 2008–2009 school year walked out the door before they were even eligible for tenure.

That is an indictment of the DOE, which has abdicated its responsibility to provide new teachers with the proper supports that will help them succeed.

Teaching is complex work. Even the brightest and most talented new recruits will founder without support and guidance.

Teachers have told us that number one on their wish list is quality professional development and support in the classroom. Yet the DOE, after expending so much effort hiring new teachers, leaves them to sink or swim once they are in front of the classroom without helping them continue to refine their craft. The union, through its Teacher Centers, courses and new teacher support groups, has jumped into the breach.

For all of the bragging by the mayor that his administration is reaching its goal to “end tenure as we know it,” most of the 45 percent of teachers who did not receive tenure this year were not shown the door. Instead, they simply had their probation extended — something the city has encouraged principals to do. The large number of extensions began a year ago, when 39 percent received them.

The union was concerned that some were receiving extensions for reasons unrelated to their performance — such as the failure by principals to complete the required classroom observations, or because a principal was new to the building. That’s hardly fair.

The UFT is — and always has been — supportive of a rigorous but fair process for granting tenure. But if New York City hopes to have a great school system, it will need to figure out better ways to help teachers develop at the start, as well as throughout, their careers.

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