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NJ Gov. Chris Christie wants to end teacher tenure – and he's not alone

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“Tenure is really about due-process protections,” says Patrick McGuinn, a political science professor at Drew University in New Jersey who has studied tenure policies, “but over time it’s become so lengthy, complicated, and costly to go through those due-process protections ... that virtually no teachers are fired on the basis of performance.”

But while tenure reform enjoys support from both Democrats and Republicans, some observers see such calls as polarizing rhetoric that could ultimately harm efforts to improve education.

It’s “demonizing teachers,” says Thomas Hatch, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York. “Just eliminating teacher tenure is not suddenly going to improve the performance of teachers... Part of what people forget is we’re also trying to support good teachers” when crafting evaluation and professional development policies.

Every time a story comes out about the years and the dollars it can take for administrators to get rid of incompetent or even abusive teachers, teacher tenure becomes an easy target for politicians and pundits.

In Ohio, calls for reform were stoked most recently by a case in Mount Vernon, where the school board had to spend about two years and $900,000 to fire a teacher who had burned the image of a cross into students’ arms, the Associated Press reports. The state has already extended the amount of time people have to teach before earning tenure to seven years, but further changes may be considered this year.

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