Retaining Effective 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. This goal remains unchanged in 2021.
Link to Ineffectiveness: Arkansas does not connect ineffectiveness to dismissal. Placing a low-performing teacher in "intensive support status" is not required; instead this determination is left up to the evaluator. For teachers who are placed in "intensive support status," the superintendent reviews documented progress and "may recommend termination or nonrenewal of the teacher's contract."
Due Process Distinction: Arkansas does not distinguish the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance from those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation, such as felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for cancellation, which include "incompetent performance, conduct which materially interferes with the continued performance of the teacher's duty, repeated or material neglect of duty, or other just and reasonable cause."
Appeals Process: Arkansas's nonprobationary teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 30 days to file a written request for a hearing, which must take place not more than 20 days after the request has been received. Teachers may then file an additional appeal, within 75 days, to the county circuit court. Arkansas does not specify the time frame of this appeal.
Arkansas Code 6-17-1507; 1509; 1510; 2807 Rules Governing the Teacher Excellence and Support System http://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/public/userfiles/rules/Current/2017/Educator_Support_Rules_FINAL.pdf
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Arkansas should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. Doing so will help ensure 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 remain open over multiple years drain resources from school districts and disincentivize districts from terminating poor performers. Therefore, Arkansas 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 is reached within a reasonable time frame.
Distinguish between the process and accompanying due process rights for dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
Although 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 affect a teacher's right to practice. Arkansas should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
Arkansas asserted that student growth measures are factored throughout the evaluation rubric domains and components, using multiple measures of student growth as detailed in the 2017 Rules Governing Support in Development. The state added that it has four distinctly different processes for teacher dismissal under the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act for a school district to dismiss a teacher for performance deficiencies; the intensive support status under the Teacher Excellence and Support System; the ethical violations under the Code of Ethics for Arkansas Educators; and state and federal background checks and Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry.
Although Arkansas requires "that evidence of student growth is a significant part of the Teacher Excellence and Support System" and "ensure that student growth is analyzed at every phase of the evaluation system to illustrate teacher effectiveness," it appears Arkansas' policy does not necessarily require the inclusion of objective student growth measures in its teacher evaluations. Specifically, Arkansas requires the use of data as one of the multiple sources of evidence of a teacher's professional practice. However, data are defined as "teacher performance data, student performance data, or overall school performance data...[and] may include multiple measures of student growth, school quality, or student success."
States need to be explicit that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Most states have laws on their books that address teacher dismissal; however, until recently these laws were much more likely to consider criminal and moral violations than performance. While many states have amended their dismissal policy to be more explicit about classroom ineffectiveness, some still retain euphemistic terms 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. Non-probationary 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 teachers for poor performance. 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.