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.
In Arkansas, tenured teachers who are terminated have multiple opportunities to appeal. 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. The state does not specify the time frame of this appeal.
Arkansas 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 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."
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Euphemistic terms such as "incompetent performance" are ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Arkansas 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. Arkansas should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.
Arkansas referred NCTQ to the state's new Teacher Excellence and Support System.
As noted in Goal 5-B, the state's new evaluation system does address consequences for poor evaluation ratings, including making teachers who fail to improve eligible for dismissal. However, state code addressing dismissal is not nearly so clear. Particularly because the state's due process allows appeal to the circuit court—meaning decisions are made by those without educational expertise—the state should bring its dismissal code up to date. This would avoid conflicting interpretations that could undermine the state's efforts concerning the dismissal of consistently underperforming teachers.