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Retaining Teacher Talent

The View From Generation Y

Policy Recommendation 3:

School leaders should be supported to make tenure decisions a more meaningful stop along the educator career continuum. Local policymakers, with teacher input, should design and implement an evaluation system that will provide tenure only after teachers demonstrate their effectiveness in the classroom.

Many teachers interviewed and surveyed for this study expressed skepticism with the current tenure systems in their respective school districts. Too often, tenure is seen as a meaningless reward; teachers "earn" tenure merely by putting in their time. Moreover, teachers' tenure chances are dependent on the idiosyncrasies of their principal—strong principals will be much more selective about awarding tenure; other principals, especially those who face great recruitment challenges will not be as selective. As such, many ineffective teachers are granted job security and increased pay for no reason other than time on the job. Gen Y teachers are more skeptical of tenure, perhaps because they are in the early stages of their careers, and perhaps as a result of the fact that, from their perspective, there are many tenured faculty members in their schools who are no more effective than they are.

In Minneapolis, school district officials worked together with the heads of the local union chapter to create an "Achievement of Tenure" system; gone are the days in which teachers earn tenure merely by showing up to work three years in a row.8 Instead, practitioners must accomplish the following tasks before they are eligible for tenure:

  • Know and understand all curriculum standards (both district and state level).
  • Be successfully evaluated by the principal.
  • Work with a teacher-mentor and an achievement tenure team closely for at least the first year of teaching.
  • Complete courses on nonverbal communication and peer coaching.
  • Acquire a certain number of professional development hours in their respective fields.
  • Conduct an action research project, complete with professional portfolio, and present findings to a tenure review team.

A teacher's successful completion of all components of tenure achievement results in a recommendation by the tenure review team to rehire that individual. For those who do not immediately achieve this recommendation, there are generally two options:

  • If that individual is "right on the line," then the team might recommend that a mentor remain with that teacher for another year, with a reevaluation process at the end of that year.
  • If a teacher's body of work shows that he or she is in the wrong locale, content area, or profession altogether, the team often will recommend not to rehire.


8 Nordgren, L. (September 10, 2009). President, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. Personal communication.

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