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: Hawaii requires that any teacher who earns an unsatisfactory rating must be dismissed.
Due Process Distinction: Hawaii distinguishes between the due process rights of teachers dismissed for unsatisfactory 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: Hawaii requires that after receiving a notice of dismissal following an unsatisfactory evaluation, a teacher has 20 days to file a grievance with the superintendent, and a meeting between the superintendent and the teacher must be held within five days thereafter. A decision regarding the grievance is delivered to the teacher within five days of the meeting. The teacher may file an appeal with a Performance Judge within 10 days of the grievance decision, and the judge must be selected within 20 days. While the Performance Judge has 30 days to issue a decision after the case is heard, no time frame is specified for the hearing. The decision of the Performance Judge is final and binding.
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 remain open over multiple years drain resources and disincentivize the system from terminating poor performers. Therefore, Hawaii must ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once. It is in the best interest of both the teacher and the state that a conclusion is reached within a reasonable time frame.
Hawaii 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.