Dismissal for Poor Performance: Hawaii

Exiting Ineffective 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.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Hawaii results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/HI-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-73

Analysis of Hawaii's policies

Hawaii requires that any teacher given an unsatisfactory rating must be dismissed. Those rated as marginal who do not improve to effective after assistance must be dismissed. 

The state also 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.

After receiving notice of dismissal following an unsatisfactory evaluation, the 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.


Recommendations for Hawaii

Ensure that the appeals process occurs within a reasonable time frame.
Hawaii is commended for making unsatisfactory performance ratings grounds for dismissal. Whether or not the state considers internal reviews or meetings to be appeals, multiple opportunities to review a decision to terminate a teacher delays the process and could create a disincentive to attempt to terminate poor performers. The state is encouraged to establish more time-sensitive parameters for its appeals process, as it is in the best interest of both teacher and school system to reach a conclusion within a reasonable time frame.

State response to our analysis

Hawaii had no comment on this goal.

Research rationale

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 explict 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.
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.