The ideas represented within this article are opinions in nature and are solely that of the author. They may not wholly reflect the stance of The Forest Scout newspaper as a publication.
It’s a great privilege to be a student at LFHS and let us not forget that it is also a privilege to teach here as well. With the implementation of teacher tenure in 1910, once teachers reach the four year requirement at a specific public school, their job is secured. In 2014, Illinois passed more strict tenure laws but, ultimately, when it is compared to other vocations, the laws regarding teacher tenure are still loose. Illinois’ tenure law states that, “teachers achieve tenure after four consecutive school terms of service in which the teacher receives an overall annual evaluation rating of at least ‘proficient’ in the most recent school term, and at least ‘proficient’ in either the second or third school term of their career at the school.” Illinois tenure law also states that, “the teacher could achieve tenure by achieving three consecutive school terms of service in which the teacher receives three overall evaluations of ‘excellent.’” Still notwithstanding, a teacher can achieve two consecutive school terms of service in which the teacher receives overall annual evaluations of ‘excellent’ service, but only if the teacher previously attained contractual continued service in a different school district or program in the state.” Basically, to sum it up: if you are decent–which is essentially the equivalent to proficient–at your job, you can achieve tenure. The Illinois tenure law also gives stipulations as to how you can get fired. In short, in Illinois you can, in fact, get fired for not being nice to students, receiving an “unsatisfactory” rating; or if the school needs to cut down on the number of teachers, otherwise known as a reduction in force (RIF). To receive an unsatisfactory rating, teachers need to not have done prep work for their class and essentially show an unwillingness to prepare any sort of foresight in their preparation for a given course.
While teachers have to do a lot of work to get recognized by tenure, they don’t have to do a lot of work to keep it. Tenure provides an opportunity for a teaching professional to become outdated and become passed up by their curriculum and content. In essence, teachers can use lesson plans from previous years and teach the same thing every year without changing or adapting their lessons to accommodate technological advancement, current events, or even trends in educational instruction. Every year teachers should be pushing themselves to become better, resulting in the standard of excellence to be raised in any given school year. This is, after all, what the general public expects from students. Teachers should be pushing themselves to become the best educators they can be. While some teachers do work diligently towards being their absolute best, there can be others stuck in old ways who have become complacent in the classroom.
According to English teacher Austin Scott, “A vast majority of teachers at Lake Forest High School have achieved tenure,” which is non-disputable considering the general longevity of the average teacher’s career at LFHS. A great deal of the teachers that are on tenure at LFHS are doing excellent work, and should be commended for that work. But, as to be expected in a large sample size of teachers, around 150 to be precise, there are some that have become complacent in the classroom or have become “lazy” on their way out the door.
The protection of these aforementioned employees rests in the strength of the union. There are contractual obligations that the union negotiates with the school board that must be met. Teacher tenure is the linchpin of the teachers union and their existing contract with the school board. The union allows the teachers to have access to have certain rights as employees of the school district.
There is no such thing as a perfect system. Teaching, in most regards, is a thankless task and we have been fortunate enough to be the recipient of some of the state’s most reputable and quality instructors. But just because it is a tough job doesn’t mean that its safety net of job security should allow for educators to stagnate. Teachers need to have a higher form of checks and balances that ensure their job security, but also doesn’t grant them the freedom to become complacent.