Probationary Period: Iowa

2017 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should base tenure decisions on an appropriate number of years in the classroom. This goal was not graded in 2017.

Analysis of Iowa's policies

Length of Probationary Period: Iowa teachers are awarded tenure after a three-year probationary period.

Citation

Recommendations for Iowa

Require a longer probationary period.
Iowa should ensure that its probationary period is of sufficient length to allow for the collection of data that adequately reflect teacher performance.

State response to our analysis

Iowa recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: December 2017

Research rationale

Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career. The decision to give teachers tenure (or permanent status) is usually made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual performance.[1] State policy should reflect the fact that initial certification is temporary and probationary, and that tenure is intended to be a significant reward for teachers who have consistently shown effectiveness and commitment.[2] Tenure and advanced certification are not rights implied by the conferring of an initial teaching certificate. No other profession, including higher education, offers practitioners tenure after only a few years of working in the field.[3]

States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions.[4] Most states confer tenure at a point that is too early for the collection of sufficient and adequate data that reflect teacher performance. Ideally, states would accumulate such data for four to five years. This robust data set would prevent effective teachers from being unfairly denied tenure based on too little data and ineffective teachers from being granted tenure.


[1] For evidence on the potential benefits of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure, see: Loeb, S., Miller, L. C., & Wyckoff, J. (2015). Performance screens for school improvement: The case of teacher tenure reform in New York City. Educational researcher, 44(4), 199-212. Retrieved from http://cepa.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/Performance%20Screens.pdf
[2] Gordon, R. J., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/identifying-effective-teachers-using-performance-on-the-job/; Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class. See: Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Assessing the potential of using value-added estimates of teacher job performance for making tenure decisions (Working Paper 31). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001369_assessing_the_potential.pdf
[3] For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure, see: Goldhaber, D., & Hansen, M. (2010). Assessing the potential of using value-added estimates of teacher job performance for making tenure decisions (Working Paper 31). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/1001369_assessing_the_potential.pdf
[4] For additional evidence, see: Gordon, R. J., Kane, T. J., & Staiger, D. (2006). Identifying effective teachers using performance on the job. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/identifying-effective-teachers-using-performance-on-the-job/