Signs of intellectual activity at the Tribune?

Providing tenure to K-12 teachers is absurd.

Taking aim at tenure

Michelle and Barack Obama revealed Friday that their daughters will go to the private Sidwell Friends School when they all move to the White House. This was disappointing to the local teachers union, which had hoped the new First Parents would send their girls to Washington schools (as the Carters did to poor Amy) to show their faith in public education. Fat chance.

Though the Washington schools’ per-pupil spending rate is among the nation’s highest; its student test scores are among the lowest. Sound familiar? It’s no mystery why Sasha, a 2nd grader, and Malia, a 5th grader, have attended the private University of Chicago Lab Schools.

Hired in 2007 to turn the Washington schools around, Chancellor Michelle Rhee jumped in with both feet, firing ineffective principals, closing schools and aggressively recruiting talented teachers. Now she has taken aim at teacher tenure and seniority—contract provisions that make it hard for schools to hire and keep good instructors or to get rid of bad ones.

Teacher pay is based almost exclusively on degrees held and years spent in the classroom, neither of which has proved to be a great predictor of student achievement. Teaching assignments are made largely on seniority, which channels the least experienced teachers into the most challenging jobs. The good teachers look for work elsewhere; the bad ones never leave.

Teacher tenure is an insane policy. It is 100% intellectually unsupportable.