Tenure : District of Columbia

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Tenure : District of Columbia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DC-Tenure--8

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

The District of Columbia does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.

The District does not have a state-level policy concerning the length of the probationary period before teachers can attain permanent status nor does it indicate any other additional process evaluating cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness that is required to receive tenure.

However, although not state policy, the current contract between the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the Washington Teachers Union represents significant advancement in the area of teacher tenure. One of the key components of the contract, which went into effect July 2010, is mutual consent regarding teacher hiring, meaning that the teacher and the school must agree for a teacher to get the job. It applies regardless of tenure, so principals may now staff their schools based on the most qualified candidates.


Recommendations for District of Columbia

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 evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant criterion in tenure decisions.
The District of Columbia 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 educational agencies must administer when deciding which teachers get tenure.
The District of Columbia 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 an adequate probationary period.
The District of Columbia should articulate parameters for a probationary period, ideally five years. This would allow for an adequate collection of sufficient data that reflect teacher performance. 

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia acknowledged that it does not articulate tenure requirements. However, the District asserted that charter schools do not award tenure, and DCPS has the new contract and an evaluation system that requires individuals who receive a rating of "minimally effective" for two consecutive years to be subject to separation from the school system. The IMPACT system also requires that those who receive an "ineffective" rating be subject to separation. So in effect, the District contended, these policies exist throughout the District.

Last word

Establishing state-level policy would ensure that these current policies continue even if circumstances at the district level were to change.

Research rationale

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, "Assuming the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Center for Reinventing Public Education. (2009).  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 Robert Gordon, et al., "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, Brookings Institute, March 2006.