No more free passes. The city Department of Education changed its tenure policy yesterday with new rules designed to weed out its bad teachers and reward its best ones with jobs for life, reports the New York Post. After years of rubber-stamp approvals, principals will now make tenure recommendations based on such performance benchmarks as classroom preparation and student feedback.

“We can’t afford to squander the highest honor we can bestow–of guaranteed lifetime employment–on those not worthy,” said Deputy Chancellor Eric Nadelstern.

The changes–and the comments that accompanied them–drew a quick rebuttal from the city’s teachers union, which accused the department of ignoring real problems.

“Every time the DOE needs a cheap headline, they make some pronouncement about teacher tenure, conveniently ignoring the fact that the process for granting tenure has always been within the DOE and the chancellor’s control,” United Federation of Teachers President Mark Mulgrew said in a statement.

“If the administration spent half as much time and energy supporting teachers as it does pontificating about tenure, we’d have a better school system.”

At issue is a policy under harsh debate since Mayor Bloomberg took control of the city schools. Just weeks after the current school year began, Bloomberg vowed to upend tenure by requiring teachers to improve student performance for two straight years in order to earn it. Under the guidelines announced yesterday, tenure-eligible teachers must be deemed “effective” for two consecutive years in such areas as student learning, instructional practice and professional contributions. Teachers who don’t make the grade are given either a probationary extension or a pink slip…

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staff and wire services reports