Teacher Seniority and (Our) Tenure Are Not the Same Things

But the terms are used somewhat interchangeably in K-12 parlance (ever hear of a 4th grade teacher invoking “Academic Freedom” to explain why s/he is teaching Sex Ed?), and the former is clearly under attack across the country. Or at least on the coasts.

Exhibit #1:

Up to 45 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses will be shielded from teacher layoffs altogether, Judge William F. Highberger ordered Friday, and layoffs in the district’s other 750 schools must be spread more equitably. That could lead some experienced teachers to lose their jobs.

The decision comes amid deep education cuts and a debate over teacher tenure rules, which are being challenged across the country. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently called for the end of tenure, as have leaders in Florida, Idaho, Wyoming and elsewhere.

Exhibit #2:

In a bluntly worded speech delivered at a politically influential black church, Mr. Bloomberg said current state law could force him to fire every teacher hired by the city over the last five years, 15,000 in all.

The mayor said that if, as widely expected, the governor’s office proposes deep cuts to the city’s education spending this week, it must give the city flexibility in determining which teachers to lay off. Right now, it must fire new teachers first.

Something to watch.

Request for Suggestions About Tenure Process

Last week’s Think, Know, Prove was about suggestions for goals for local and district wide Faculty Council, inspired, so to speak, by the report to the board of the outgoing Faculty Council President. In that discussion, a few suggestions were made, including some related to revisions to the Tenure Process.

Then, Faculty Council got this from the FC4 secretary last week:

Faculty Council has been made aware of several inequities in the tenure process such as the revocation of prior approval for courses and projects.  We have reported these concerns to the Office of Academic Affairs.

The Vice Chancellor’s office has asked faculty council to compile a list of these and any other concerns and to make recommendations on how they can be avoided in the future. Please note that we have not been asked to propose any major changes to the process. We have only been asked to suggest ways in which the administration of the current process can be improved.

We asking local faculty councils to relay this request to newly tenured faculty who have recently gone through the tenure process and ask them to send me their comments.

I’m not sure why proposals for “major changes” are seemingly discouraged in the second paragraph (if they ask for suggestions, why not give them major ones and hope that they’ll make at least some incremental ones? I guess I don’t understand district level politics well enough), but whatever.

Any suggestions from you who have “recently gone through the tenure process?” Anything else that wasn’t covered last week? Last call–who knows if or when they’ll ever ask for input on this topic again..speak now if you have something to say!

Think, Know, Prove

Think, Know, Prove is a regular Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

With apologies to the adjunct eyeballs out there, this one is about our beloved (ha) tenure process. I mean, seriously, does anyone think it is even remotely defensible? Has anyone gotten anything positive except tenure out of going through it, which is not to mention A) all of the unnecessary suffering that is requisite for the good at the end; and B) that it is consistently described as a kind of harrowing process to get through, which makes tenure more of a finish line than a quality verification.

Two common misconceptions are that the law or our contract are the reasons for the tenure process being what it is, but the truth is that neither say much on the topic. The guiding force is, far and away, academic policy 2.20A, which can be changed at the wave of a few hands at a board meeting. Have you ever read that thing? If you’d like to, here’s a link; if you don’t have time, but you’d like to know what the experience is like, pick up a big dictionary or a frying pan or something heavy and then hit yourself in the forehead with it. 15 or 16 times ought to do it.

It’s completely non-sensical. As is the process. At least that’s what I think, and what I’ve heard from others.

I’m familiar with arguments against tenure, as well as for it, and, while those topics are interesting, they are not what I want to propose for discussion here today. I also understand that a rigorous tenure process is a good thing, but I don’t think that’s what we have (In fact it bothered me so much, that I drafted a proposal a couple of years ago to change the process and worked on it for months with Art DiVito. We got as far as a district Dean’s meeting, before it went into limbo. I for one, still hold out hope for a better, more reflective, more logical, more evidence based, and (so) more rigorous process that is much, much less redundant and annoying for everyone involved.), but that, too, is a topic for another day.

Today, I propose that we remember, regardless of all our complaints and distaste for the current process that we still have people going through it. So, the point of this post is to provide a little support to our non-tenured colleagues. If you’re out there with tenure in your pocket, what advice do you have for those going through the tenure process at HWC? What did you learn from your own experiences? What do you wish you had (or hadn’t) done? And if you’re out there, non-tenured, here is a place for you to ask questions (and do so anonymously, if you’d like).

Finally, rest assured: this site is NOT hosted on CCC servers nor does it have anything to do with them or their stuff. Consequently, they do NOT have access to names or posters or anything associated with it. The Administrators and Editor/Contributors are HW faculty, so you don’t have to be concerned about administrative spying eyes or recriminations for things you post here. If you use a pseudonym, only WordPress knows who you are, and they don’t care what you say about the CCC tenure process. Fire away…

(Oh, and one other thing: I’d be happy to post an adjunct special next week–a topic of particular concern to our adjunct faculty for discussion, as long as anyone out there with a suggestion sends it along to me (drichardson2@ccc.edu) or posts it in the comments. Thanks in advance.)

h/t to Ivan Tejeda for suggesting today’s topic.