Retaining Effective 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. This goal remains unchanged in 2021.
Link to ineffectiveness: Florida ensures that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal. All new teachers are placed on annual contracts, and the state requires that such contracts are not renewed if a teacher's performance is unsatisfactory. An annual contract may not be awarded if the teacher has received "two consecutive annual performance evaluation ratings of unsatisfactory, two annual performance ratings of unsatisfactory within a three-year period, or three consecutive annual performance evaluation ratings of needs improvement or a combination of needs improvement and unsatisfactory."
Due process distinction: Florida distinguishes between the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance as determined by annual performance evaluations and those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation such as a felony and/or morality violations.
Appeals process: Florida teachers dismissed for "just cause," which includes "immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency, gross insubordination, willful neglect of duty, and being convicted or found guilty of, or entering a plea of guilty to, regardless of adjudication of guilt, any crime involving moral turpitude" are entitled to more than one appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may file an appeal with the district school board within 15 days. The hearing on the appeal must then take place within 60 days. A teacher then has 30 days to appeal the district school board's decision for judicial review.
In contrast, a teacher may contest his or her dismissal based on a performance evaluation rating by requesting a hearing with the district school board, and that hearing must take place within 60 days. The district school board's decision is final.
Florida Statutes Title XLVIII, Chapter 1012.33 (3), 1012.34 (4); Title X, Chapter 120.68
Due to Florida's strong policies in this area, no recommendations are provided.
Florida recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
States need to be explicit that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Most states have laws on their books that address teacher dismissal; however, until recently these laws were much more likely to consider criminal and moral violations than performance. While many states have amended their dismissal policy to be more explicit about classroom ineffectiveness, some still retain euphemistic terms 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. Non-probationary 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 teachers for poor performance. 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.