How long is enough to prove a lifetime of dedication? For teachers at Palo Alto High School, the answer is three years. Currently the school’s tenure system works like this: teachers work until they are either awarded a permanent job (this trial period can last for up to three years) or dismissed from Paly staff.
The decision to grant tenure is controlled by Paly’s administration and hinges on the opinions of select faculty members.
Democratization is an essential component of American life. From workplace employee surveys to town hall meetings, there is a check and balance for nearly every power structure in our nation. This setup is unique to the United States, which we at The Campanile both acknowledge and are thankful for. Yet there remain exceptions. Paly’s tenure system is one of them.
The Campanile disapproves of the current tenure selection method because of the lack of student input involved in making decisions of such magnitude. Teachers are trained to instruct the student body, and so we see it as only fair that the student body play a part in evaluating the people whose job it is to evaluate them.
It would make everybody’s lives easier if the student-teacher satisfaction rate were 100 percent. Even 90 percent or 80 percent. But as it stands, the rating is 70 percent according to Ratemyteacher.com, the Yelp of student-teacher relationships. Though the site is an imperfect reflection of teacher performance, it does hold relevance — have a look if you disagree.
To remedy the lack of influence that Paly students hold over the tenure process, The Campanile encourages administrators to standardize the anonymous student reports on teachers’ performance in the classroom.
There should be more opportunities for students to offer quantitative data, such as ratings of teachers’ skills on a 1-10 or other numerical scale.
By implementing this system, administrators will be able to more reasonably determine which teachers are effective and which ones are ineffective at academic instruction based directly on student input. Administrators should also provide evidence that student feedback on teachers’ performance held influence over the tenuring process. The other component of our proposed plan is taking parent complaints into account when making the decision to give out tenure. If a teacher provokes outcry from multiple households, it should raise a red flag.
Because students are significantly affected by the quality of their teachers’ classroom instruction, The Campanile believes that democratizing the tenure process would be a step in the right direction.