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From Calif. Teachers, More Nuanced Views On Tenure

Publication Date: 
July 10, 2014
NPR Education
Eric Westervelt

 Professor William Koski comments on a recent California court case with far-reaching implications for teacher tenure laws for NPR Education. 

In the weeks since a California judge overturned the state's rules governing teacher tenure, the political noise has only grown louder. Advocates on both sides of the issues have largely stuck to "give-no-ground," press-release rhetoric that risks drowning out educators in the middle.

I've spoken with educators around the state since the ruling, including many who say they want protections but also real change.


"My hope is that the Vergara decision hasn't polarized those conversations ... turned it into an 'us against them' situation and having to stake out the most far-fringed position," says professor Bill Koski. He teaches at Stanford University's law school and graduate school of education. He hopes the ruling doesn't stifle efforts underway in some cities exploring creative approaches to tenure and teacher evaluation, including adding more robust peer and student reviews.

"I do hope this is an opportunity to start a dialogue outside the courtroom in part because teacher policy and employment protections, how to get high-quality teachers into hard-to-staff classrooms and, importantly, how to close the teacher-quality gap — these are extremely complicated questions. It's going to take some really complex policy thinking and some conversations at the local level as well as the state level," Koski says.