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.
Florida ensures that teacher ineffectiveness is
grounds for dismissal. All new teachers are placed on annual
contracts (see Goal 3-D), 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."
The state also 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.
A teacher 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" is 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 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, 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.