Dismissal for Poor Performance

2013 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

2013 Goals for Dismissal for Poor Performance

The state should articulate that ineffective classroom performance is grounds for dismissal and ensure that the process for terminating ineffective teachers is expedient and fair to all parties.

Best practices

Florida and Oklahoma clearly articulate that teacher ineffectiveness in the classroom is grounds for dismissal. In both states, teachers are eligible for dismissal after two annual ratings of unsatisfactory performance. Each state has taken steps to ensure that the dismissal process for teachers deemed to be ineffective is expedited. Teachers facing dismissal have only one opportunity to appeal. 

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Dismissal for Poor Performance national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/national/Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-24
Best practice 2


Meets goal 1


Nearly meets goal 6


Meets goal in part 20


Meets a small part of goal 5


Does not meet goal 17


Progress on this goal since 2011

  • Improved
  • Stayed the same
  • Regressed

Do states articulate that instructional ineffectiveness is adequate grounds for dismissing a teacher?

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Yes: AK, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, LA, MA, ME, MI, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, TN, VA, WA, WV, WY

No : AL, CA, DC, IA, KS, KY, MD, MN, MO, MS, MT, ND, NE, NH, NV, OR, SC, SD, TX, UT, VT, WI

Are states’ dismissal policies fair and efficient?

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Yes. State permits dismissal decisions to be appealed once. : FL, LA, OK, WI

Partially. State permits dismissal decisions to be appealed multiple times for teachers dismissed for reasons other than ineffectiveness. : CO, IN, TN

No. State permits all dismissal decisions to be appealed multiple times.: AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, VA, WA, WV, WY

No. State has no policy -- or an unclear policy -- regarding dismissal.: DC, ME, NE, NV, UT, VT

How we graded

Research rationale

States need to be explicit that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.

Most states have laws on their books that address teacher dismissal; however, these laws are much more likely to consider criminal and moral violations than performance. When performance is included, it is too often in a euphemistic term such as "incompetency," "inefficiency" or "incapacity." These terms are ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Without laws that clearly state that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal, districts may feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers.

Due process must be efficient and expedited.

Nonprobationary teachers who are dismissed for any grounds, including ineffectiveness, are entitled to due process. However, due process rights that allow for multiple levels of appeal are not fair to teachers, districts and especially students. All parties have a right to have disputes settled quickly. Cases that drag on for years drain resources from school districts and create a disincentive for districts to attempt to terminate poor performances. Teachers are not well served by such processes either, as they are entitled to final resolution quickly.

Decisions about teachers should be made by those with educational expertise.

Multiple levels of appeal almost invariably involve courts or arbitrators who lack educational expertise. It is not in students' best interest to have the evidence of teachers' effectiveness evaluated by those who are not educators. A teacher's opportunity to appeal should occur at the district level and involve only those with educational expertise. This can be done in a manner that is fair to all parties by including retired teachers or other knowledgeable individuals who are not current district employees.

Dismissal for Poor Performance: Supporting Research

One of the greatest shortcomings of teacher performance appraisals has been school systems' unwillingness and inability to differentiate instructional competency. The New Teacher Project, 2009, "The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness" at http://widgeteffect.org.

See NCTQ, State of the States: Trends and Early Lessons on Teacher Evaluation and Effectiveness Policies (2011) as well as studies by The New Teacher Project of human resource and dismissal policies in various districts at: http://tntp.org/ideas-and-innovations.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steven Brill, "The Rubber Room," The New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill;

Also, see S. Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at: http://thehiddencostsoftenure.com.