Dismissal for Poor Performance: Alabama

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


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.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/AL-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-10

Analysis of Alabama's policies

In Alabama, tenured teachers who are terminated have multiple opportunities to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 15 days to file the first appeal, which is scheduled up to 60 days after the teacher receives notice. The teacher then has another 21 days to file an additional appeal with the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.

Alabama does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, nor does the state distinguish the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance from those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation, such as a felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for cancellation, which include "incompetency, insubordination, neglect of duty, immorality, failure to perform duties in a satisfactory manner, justifiable decrease in the number of teaching positions, or other good and just cause."


Recommendations for Alabama

Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Euphemistic terms such as "incompetency" are ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Alabama should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so that districts do not feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers.

Ensure that teachers terminated for poor performance have the opportunity to appeal within a reasonable time frame.
Nonprobationary teachers who are dismissed for any grounds, including ineffectiveness, are entitled to due process. However, cases that drag on for years drain resources from school districts and create a disincentive for districts to attempt to terminate poor performers. Therefore, the state must ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once and only at the district level. It is in the best interest of both the teacher and the district that a conclusion be reached within a reasonable time frame.

Distinguish the process and accompanying due process rights between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
While nonprobationary teachers should have due process for any termination, it is important to differentiate between loss of employment and issues with far-reaching consequences that could permanently impact a teacher's right to practice. Alabama should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that, "as noted in response to Goal 5-B, EDUCATEAlabama is a formative rather than a summative process. Employment decisions are made by local boards of education based on the recommendations of local superintendents of education. School system personnel are advised to use progressive discipline procedures when a teacher's performance is less than acceptable and does not improve."

Last word

While hiring and firing of teachers is a local issue, the state can and should establish for local districts that ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal so that districts have the legal authority to dismiss poor performers.

Research rationale

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://www.tntp.org/.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steve Brill, "The Rubber Room," New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
Also, see Scott Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1135269736359.pdf.