As a matter of practice, in some years DCPS required a principal’s recommendation for permanent status, in other years, a recommendation was not required. HR would grant tenure after review of the teacher’s record. If the teacher was rated Satisfactory under the performance evaluation procedure then in effect, and had met all other requirements, HR would convert the teacher to permanent status. It would do so whether or not the principal had recommended tenure, and even if a principal recommended against tenure, so long as the teacher had a Satisfactory rating and had met all requirements.
In a system where nearly every teacher earned a Satisfactory rating, earning tenure was a mere formality. Tenure wasn’t granted by the teacher’s supervisor (in fact, it could go against their direct wishes), teachers didn’t have to apply to any type of review panel (like in higher education), and there was no external check of the teacher’s ability whatsoever. Tenure was granted by the HR Department as breezily as sick days were accumulated or paychecks were mailed out. Tenure was just a pure technicality, something you earned if you stayed in the system long enough.
Tenure, if used properly, could have real meaning. It could signify the point at which a junior teacher becomes fully established into the profession. There could be a real review process of the teacher’s ability in the classroom. If someone made it through a rigorous, independent process, they’d be rewarded with significant job protections and financial benefits to match.
In too many places across the country, none of these conditions exist. Teachers are awarded the job protections of tenure without truly earning it, the process to earn it is largely a formality, and there are no significant status or financial rewards to accompany it. DCPS is working to change all that, but the recent decision shows just how important it is to take the tenure decision seriously.