Dismissal for Poor Performance: Delaware

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Delaware results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/DE-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-10

Analysis of Delaware's policies

In Delaware, teachers can be dismissed for incompetency, which the state defines as "a pattern of ineffective teaching."

In addition, tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 10 days to file the first appeal, which is scheduled up to 21 days after receipt of the request. The teacher may then file an additional appeal with the superior court. The state does not stipulate the time frame of this appeal.

Delaware 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 a felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for cancellation, which include "immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency, disloyalty, neglect of duty, willful and persistent insubordination, a reduction in the number of teachers required as a result of decreased enrollment, or a decrease in education services."

Citation

Recommendations for Delaware

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. Delaware should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.  

State response to our analysis

Delaware asserted that "the due process for a revocation of a license and Standard Certificate is substantially different from that of dismissal for ineffective teaching or a reduction in the number of teachers as a result of diminished student enrollment."

Last word

The point is that the multiple appeals allowed for dismissal based on ineffectiveness—including to the superior court—are more in keeping with the more serious consequence of license revocation.   

How we graded

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 usually 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.

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.

Research rationale

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://www.tntp.org/.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steve Brill, "The Rubber Room," New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
 
Also, see Scott Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1135269736359.pdf.