“Rotten Apples:” TIME’s controversial cover sparking teacher tenure debate nationwide

Posted at 6:22 PM, Oct 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-28 20:33:18-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Nov. 3 cover of TIME Magazine, already available online, sparked an outcry from educators nationwide. The title, “Rotten Apples: It’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher. Some tech millionaires have found a way to change that,” is being called “rotten journalism.”

The article debates the topic of teacher tenure, and how some Silicon Valley investors are working to break apart that process. Although some critics call the article balanced, they said the title is not.

President Pro tem of the Grand Rapids Education Association Mary Bouwense said tenure is misunderstood.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that tenure is protection or job for life, when tenure is really just due process,” said Bouwense. “That due process is intended to stop good teachers from being fired, or terminated, for bad reasons.”

Essentially, tenure works like this: when a district hires a new teacher that teacher steps into a probationary period, usually a period of several years. Then, after the district trains and appropriately assesses that teacher, they are given tenure.

Most charter schools do not have this; something Timothy Wood, special assistant to the president of Grand Valley State University’s Charter Schools Office, calls a good thing.

“I think that’s one of the advantages that charter schools do have, is that our teachers are not tenured,” said Wood. “While we work with them to improve their effectiveness, having them be dismissed for effectiveness over a period of time, I think it relatively much easier than it is in a traditional public school.”

The hashtag #TIMEfail has inundated social media; some twenty-thousand tweets in protest of the cover. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wrote commentary that is posted among other educators and students on TIME’s website.

Weingarten’s commentary reads in part:

“Yes, there is a real problem facing America’s teaching profession, but it has nothing to do with tenure. The problem is in recruiting, retaining and supporting our teachers, especially at the hardest-to-staff schools.”

The AFT started a petition urging TIME to apologize to educators. As of Tuesday afternoon, AFT representatives told FOX 17 there are 83,238 unique signatures.

“(Teachers) are part of the public portion of what is happening to children, but I think you have to consider poverty, you have to consider the economy, you have to consider the parents, the income: all of those things play into how successful a student will be at school,” said Bouwense.