NEA New Hampshire President Scott McGilvray testified in front of the House Education Committee this morning regarding HB-116, a bill to return the probationary period for New Hampshire educators back to three years. Here is a transcript of his comments:
It is fitting that HB116 is the first bill your committee is considering since it addresses what is widely acknowledged as the most important predictor of student success: qualified teachers in every classroom.
Restoring the probationary period to 3 years is a major step forward in ensuring that caring, qualified educators see New Hampshire as a place to call home, and ensuring that those who are not performing successfully do not remain in the classroom.
This is not, as some have painted it, a tenure issue.
The fact is there is no such thing as teacher tenure in any New Hampshire public school and that no teacher, regardless of the length of time they have been teaching, has a guaranteed job for life.
The fact is there is not one contract in this state that makes it impossible to dismiss a teacher.
The fact is NEA New Hampshire members, all of whom are taxpayers and many of whom are parents with children in New Hampshire public schools, have as large an interest in assuring that quality educators remain in our classrooms as anyone else.
A five year probationary period does nothing to improve the quality of education in New Hampshire and only makes New Hampshire a far less attractive place to teach.
New Hampshire’s probationary period is longer than those of Massachusetts and Maine (three years) and Vermont (two years), making it more make difficult to attract the most highly qualified graduates of education programs in New England colleges and universities.
Every collective bargaining agreement signed with school districts in this state has a provision for the nonrenewal of teachers.
The responsibility and final decision for such action rests solely with school administration and district school boards.
If any other business or organization continues to employ ineffective workers, the fault rests squarely at the feet of management. The same is true for any school district in this state that does the same.
Proponents of the new law cited as their primary reason for extending the probationary period to 5 years the case of the “teacher who was almost ready, but just needed a little more time.” The extension was presented as a way to “save” a teacher from non-renewal after three years and give them two more years to prove themselves.
We believe any qualified principal should be able to access a teacher’s qualifications after 540 days of teaching. To require 900 days to make such a decision seems excessive to an absurd degree, especially when the best interest of our students and communities is resting on the outcome of that decision.
We need to focus on a system that says that no unqualified person should ever be allowed in the classroom in the first place. Students should not be used as guinea pigs to see if teaching is your profession. Instead we ought to ensure quality at entry. No one should be in a classroom, who is not qualified, certified or licensed. To take five years to come to that decision is shameful.
New Hampshire’s teachers care deeply about our children’s future and are committed to the success of every child in our classrooms. Teachers provide the stable, nurturing, inspiring environment that makes it possible to reach each student individually. Good public schools are the foundation for strong communities and a vibrant economy. Attracting and retaining highly qualified educators is key to the success of any school. A five-year probationary period makes it much, much harder to do so and only ends up hurting our students in the long run.
Wringing our hands over a non-existent problem as an excuse to dismantle the very institution that helps ensure our country’s greatness is just a waste of everyone’s time.