NEW YORK — The century-old practice of teacher tenure is under fire in a number of states, with tenure opponents calling it a factor in poor student performance and teachers unions saying tenure protects educators from arbitrary dismissals, according to The New York Times.

Talk of national tenure reform took hold when President Obama last year called for measuring and rewarding effective teaching, The Times reported. Currently, most public school teachers earn tenure after a period of probationary teaching; once tenured, they cannot be dismissed without due-process hearings and many receive seniority protections, the report said.

Governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada and New Jersey have since called for the elimination or dismantling of tenure, the report said, some saying the hearing process is time-consuming, costly and cumbersome, and discourages school districts from removing ineffective teachers from the classroom.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, told The Times that, rather than focusing on removing teachers, officials should be focusing on how to ensure that incompetent teachers are never hired. He also said that tenure laws protect teachers from arbitrary firing for reasons unrelated to their job performance, The Times reported.

In Indiana, proposed legislation would require teachers to earn "professional" status based on job evaluations linked to student learning, and collective bargaining would be limited to salary, not seniority rules, according to The Times.

The New York Times, "G.O.P. Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure," Jan. 31, 2011

Michigan Votes, "2010 Senate Bill 1582 (Fire ineffective teachers)," Nov. 9, 2010