Current misconceptions regarding the law have created several myths about tenure, popularly held, but all false. Paramount among these are:
MYTH #1: “There is a tenure law in California for K-14.”
The truth is, California dismissal law doesn’t refer to tenure. The concept of tenure as it developed in the medieval university has no connection with current practice, which provides only dismissal procedures guaranteeing due process rights and pertinent reasons for dismissal actions. Tenure has become a popular term used as a scapegoat for the real problems, which are ineffective evaluation of instruction, poor administrative practices, and inadequate investment by the public schools in experimentation, research and development, and in-service education.
MYTH #2: “Tenure is a lifetime guarantee of employment.”
The truth is that teachers have permanent status, not tenure. Within permanent status there is a procedure for dismissing teachers which guarantees due process and impartial consideration of the facts when disagreement about the facts exists.
MYTH #3: “You can’t fire a tenured teacher in California.”
The truth is that teachers are fired every year under the dismissal laws in California. In addition, when difficulties in dismissing teachers arise under the law, it is inadequate application of the law by administrators, and not the law itself, that is at fault.
MYTH #4: “Tenure is designed to protect teachers.”
The truth is that due process was developed and exists primarily to protect pupils and schools from political, social and economic interference with pupils’ right to a continuing program of quality education. The major function of due process is to insist that decisions about the quality of instruction in the schools be based on educational reasons, rather than on prejudicial or inappropriate selfish reasons.
MYTH #5: “Tenure protects the incompetent teacher.”
The truth is that California Teachers Association policy for many years has insisted that “Evaluation Is the Key to Excellence.” Where sound evaluation practices exists, it is the teacher whose inadequacies are identified and who is most affected by the need to improve, or in the absence of improvement, will be dismissed under due process provisions. Therefore, due process is a mechanism for evaluation of instruction which exposes rather than protects incompetence.
MYTH #6: “A good teacher doesn’t need tenure.”
The truth is that teachers who perform satisfactorily need the protection of due process and it is the competent teacher who is most needed to maintain and improve the quality of education for pupils. Every educational employee is entitled to due process. The broad spectrum of instructional practices require that differing methodologies require equal protection guaranteed under California laws. The competent teacher needs the due process laws!
From CTA’s “Evaluation: Key to Excellence” (2005)