NYC tenures only 58% of eligible teachers

New York City has made it much harder for teachers to get tenure after three years of experience. Only 58 percent of eligible teachers received tenure this year, 39 percent were given another year to qualify and 3 percent were rejected.

Five years ago, roughly 99 percent of eligible teachers received tenure, reports the New York Times.

“We’ve turned what had been a joke interpretation of the state law to make it something that you have to work hard, earn, and show that you are better than the average bear” to get, said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a news conference.

Under the city’s new standards, teachers are rated on a four-point scale as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective, based on students’ tests scores, classroom observations, feedback from parents, and other factors. (Previously, they were simply rated satisfactory or not.) Principals, who make recommendations on tenure, and supervisors, who make the decisions, were allowed to give tenure only to teachers who were rated effective or better for two consecutive years.

Some teachers complained that evaluation standards are unclear.

Teachers can remain on probationary status indefinitely, “although last year, one-third of those whose probation had been extended were dismissed,” reports the Times.

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  1. So if NYC doesn’t see academic gains, can we expect the supervisors and administrators who made these decisions to lose their jobs?

  2. This is a step in the right direction. When we elevate the standards for teachers and make it a more difficult career to enter, then more driven, determined folks will enter the field.

    I hope.

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Actually, I’m no mathematician, but it sounds like you can be a little worse than the average bear, and still get tenure.

    Which might be fine, I suppose.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    Michael E. Lopez: Actually, I’m no mathematician, but it sounds like you can be a little worse than the average bear, and still get tenure.

    We can’t tell from the information provided.

    If the teachers who quit voluntarily in the first three years are worse than average, then it is quite possible that being worse than average means one is unlikely to get tenure.

    Simplifying WILDLY:

    *) If 50% of new teachers are out of teaching in the first five years, then the annualized dropout is about 13%.

    *) Over three years we’d have about 65% of the original teachers left (0.65 ~= 0.87^3).

    *) If *ALL* of the dropping out teachers are the worst (not true, but I’m simplifying), then we grant tenure to 58% of the best 65% who are left.

    *) Assume (perfectly) that only the best 58% of the survivors get tenure. Then one would need to be in the top 40% of the *original* teachers to be granted tenure.

    One can play the game in the other direction, too. What if the roughly 35% who quit before three years were the best 35%? Then *most* of the teachers granted tenure would be below average almost no matter what. This doesn’t happen, either 🙂

    Lastly, the big question is “below average compared to who else?” My original math compares those teachers who get tenure to the entire pool of those who started teaching. Michael’s comment only compares them to those still teaching (and we are both making assumptions about the relative skill of those who drop out).

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    Nana: When we elevate the standards for teachers and make it a more difficult career to enter, then more driven, determined folks will enter the field.

    I don’t think it works that way. Making things harder for the same reward should tend to drive away the more driven, determined folks. On average, they’ll go to some other field where the rewards are higher for the same amount of difficulty.

    This is why many companies try not to schedule 80 hour work weeks for years at a time … this tends to be a dis-incentive to work there and the companies have to offer more money to compensate.

  6. Michael E. Lopez says:


    You could have pointed out that I was criticizing based on medians for a comment that is most naturally translated in terms of means. That would really stick it to me for trying to make a lighthearted joke.

    But no…. you had to go for the low-hanging fruit. Mark Roulos these days, I swear…

  7. BadaBing says:

    Yes, let’s make it more difficult for new teachers. They already have to jump through multifarious hoops of irrelevancy to get certificated. Add to that state testing for which students have no incentive to do well, and you’re making even the talented and inspiring go-getters think twice about entering the profession. If they do get on board, admin then applies the vice-grip of their unreasonable expectations. It’s a high stress job, and even the super-teachers last only so long. Take, for example, Erin Gruwell, the amazing teacher celebrated in Richard LaGravanese’s Freedom Writers. She’s doing consulting now. Putting the screws to new teachers does not seem a wise way to get new talent into the classroom.

  8. Roger Sweeny says:

    There are different ways of making it difficult for new teachers.

    You could make them “jump through multifarious hoops of irrelevancy to get certificated”–which BadaBing says is already done.

    You could see how much their students are learning and not retain the ones whose students do poorly.

    Right now we do the first and not the second. Perhaps if we did the second and not the first, teaching would actually become more attractive to new teachers.