The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.
Arkansas does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.
Teachers in Arkansas are awarded nonprobationary status automatically after a three-year probationary period, absent an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness. An employing school district may, by a majority vote of its directors, provide for an additional year of probationary status. Although not referred to as "tenure," awarding nonprobationary status has the same implications.
Arkansas Code 6-17-1502 and 6-17-301(a)
End the automatic awarding of tenure.
The decision to grant tenure should be a deliberate one, based on consideration of a teacher's commitment and actual evidence of classroom effectiveness.
Ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant criterion in tenure decisions.
Arkansas should make evidence of effectiveness, rather than the number of years in the classroom, the most significant factor when determining this leap in professional standing.
Articulate a process that local districts must administer when deciding which teachers get tenure.
Arkansas should require a clear process, such as a hearing, to ensure that the local district reviews a teacher's performance before making a determination regarding tenure.
Require a longer probationary period.
Arkansas should extend its probationary period, ideally to five years. This would allow sufficient time to collect data that adequately reflect teacher performance.
Arkansas contended that it does not have a tenure system, and that its new evaluation system, TESS, requires that a novice or probationary teacher be placed in a separate track from veteran teachers. To this end, teachers in Track 2, the interim appraisal track, remain there as long as performance is meeting standards of proficiency. At any time, a teacher can be moved to a summative evaluation track if performance is cause for concern, or to an intensive support track if performance in a majority of the components is at the "basic" level. Prior to being placed in the interim appraisal track, teachers who are new to the profession or new to a district will remain in Track 1, the novice/probationary category, for up to three years (based on district policy) and then move to Track 2 at the appropriate time if evidence of effective performance warrants.
Arkansas added that at any time during the school year, an evaluator may place a teacher in intensive support status if the teacher has a rating of unsatisfactory or basic in a majority of descriptors in a teacher evaluation category. If evidence warrants this placement, a timeline will be established for meeting goals for the intensive support status but will not last more than two consecutive semesters unless substantial progress is evidenced. If a teacher does not accomplish the goals and complete the tasks established for the intensive support status during the established period, the evaluator must notify the superintendent of the school district where the teacher is employed and provide him or her with documentation of the intensive support status.
Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career.
The decision to give teachers tenure (or permanent status) is usually made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual evidence. State policy should reflect the fact that initial certification is temporary and probationary, and that tenure is intended to be a significant reward for teachers who have consistently shown effectiveness and commitment. Tenure and advanced certification are not rights implied by the conferring of an initial teaching certificate. No other profession, including higher education, offers practitioners tenure after only a few years of working in the field.
States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions. Most states confer tenure at a point that is too early for the collection of sufficient and adequate data that reflect teacher performance. Ideally, states would accumulate such data for five years. This robust data set would prevent effective teachers from being unfairly denied tenure based on too little data and ineffective teachers from being granted tenure.
Tenure: Supporting Research
Numerous studies illustrate how difficult and uncommon the process is of dismissing tenured teachers for poor performance. These studies underscore the need for an extended probationary period that would allow teachers to demonstrate their capability to promote student performance.
For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see D. Goldhaber and M. Hansen, "Assessing the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Calder Institute, February 2010, Working Paper 31. Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class.
For additional evidence see R. Gordon, T. Kane, and D. Staiger, "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," The Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, The Brookings Institute, April 2006.