Dismissal for Poor Performance: District of

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. (2013). Dismissal for Poor Performance: District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-24

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system's IMPACT evaluation program ensures that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal. The IMPACT guidebook specifies that individuals who receive  ineffective ratings be "subject to separation from the school system."

In addition, teachers who are terminated have one opportunity to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may file an appeal to the Superintendent of Schools within 10 days. The time frame for the hearing, however, is not addressed.

Unfortunately, this strong policy exists only at the district level. The District has no state-level policy governing teacher dismissal.


Recommendations for District of Columbia

Codify policies to ensure that ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
While the IMPACT system implemented by DCPS and the contract between DCPS and the Washington Teachers Union represent significant policy advancements in the areas of teacher evaluation, tenure, placement and dismissal, these are district-level and not state-level policies. The District is encouraged to codify its teacher-dismissal requirements in state statute and/or regulation.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia stated that its ESEA waiver requires that performance data be used to inform retention decisions. None of the LEAs in DC, DCPS or public charter awards tenure, so there is no need for tenure-related policy in this area.

Last word

NCTQ encourages the District of Columbia to codify the use of teacher evaluations to inform personnel decisions, such as when to dismiss a teacher. The ESEA waiver is a time-limited commitment, not permanent policy. 

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.