2011 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.
In Iowa, tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may—within five days—request a hearing, which must occur within 20 days following receipt of the request. A decision must be rendered within five days. The aggrieved teacher may then file an additional appeal—within 10 days—with an adjudicator, who must schedule a hearing within 40 days and offer a decision within 15 days. A third appeal may also be filed with the district court.
Iowa does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, nor does the state 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 the state articulates vaguely as "just cause."
Iowa Code 279.15; 279. 16; 279.17; 279.18
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Iowa should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so that districts do not feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers.
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, as 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. Iowa should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.
Iowa acknowledged that teacher ineffectiveness is not explicitly a statutory ground for termination or nonrenewal of contract. The state added that if the Board of Educational Examiners suspends a license for incompetency, the educator is unemployable. If a teacher is not recommended for the next license step because he or she does not meet competency standards, the teacher is also unemployable.
The point is not whether a teacher with a suspended license is employable, but that there should be a clear distinction between ground for dismissal and grounds for license suspension or revocation. A district should have the legal standing to dismiss a teacher for unacceptable levels of classroom performance, even if this may not warrant loss of license. The state should consider adopting clear policy that makes ineffective classroom performance grounds for dismissal, as Oklahoma, Florida, and Indiana have done.