Bid to bolster tenure could weaken it, officials fear

Nontenured teachers might begin filing grievances, observer says

March 26, 2010|By Liz Bowie | liz.bowie@baltsun.com

Some education leaders and advocates say they are concerned a proposal that would change the tenure law for teachers in Maryland might backfire and make it more difficult to get rid of ineffective teachers early in their careers.

Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso said this week that he is worried that "a bill that was intended to make tenure more meaningful is actually making tenure meaningless."

The proposal would extend from two years to three the time Maryland teachers must put in before receiving tenure and is part of a larger education reform act introduced by Gov. Martin O'Malley. The reform measures are intended to make Maryland more competitive as it applies for $250 million in federal funds called Race to the Top.

The problem, said Matthew Joseph of Advocates for Children and Youth, is that the bills call for nontenured teachers to be given mentors if they receive poor evaluations. While educators generally agree on the need for mentors for new teachers, Joseph said he believes the bill's language would allow teachers who are denied tenure to file a grievance if they aren't mentored.

Currently, teachers without tenure cannot file a grievance. So Joseph believes that an amendment should be added to the bill that makes it clear that nontenured teachers don't have the right to challenge a school system's decision to let teachers go if they haven't received mentoring. Joseph said that if the current bill passes, Maryland would be less likely to receive the federal funds.

In addition, he said, he believes that allowing nontenured teachers to file grievances is poor policy.

Bills introduced in the House and Senate are slightly different. The House has passed its version, and the Senate bill is expected to be voted today. If it is approved, the two chambers will begin working out the differences, and the final product would have to be approved by both chambers.

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