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.
New legislation in Illinois specifically identifies classroom ineffectiveness as grounds for dismissal. For teachers placed on remediation plans for poor performance who receive a subsequent "unsatisfactory" performance rating within three years, "the school district may forego remediation and seek dismissal."
The state also distinguishes 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.
For teachers that have received an "unsatisfactory" performance evaluation and failed to complete a remediation with a rating of "proficient" or better, there is an "optional alternative evaluative dismissal process." The teacher must receive written notice of dismissal within 30 days of the final remediation evaluation. Each party has two days to present evidence at a hearing before a hearing officer. The hearing officer must have completed a pre-qualification program designed for performance evaluators, which involves rigorous training and "an independent observer's determination that the evaluator's ratings properly align to the requirements established by the State Board." The hearing officer must issue "findings of fact and recommendation" within 30 days of the hearing's close to the State Board of Education, which then issues a decision within 45 days. An additional appeal to the appellate court—for judicial review—is also permitted within 35 days. The cost of this appeal is borne by the teacher.
SB 0007 105 ILCS 5/24-16.5
Ensure that the appeal process occurs within a reasonable time frame and that due process rights are distinguished between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies, or dereliction of duty.
Illinois is commended for differentiating due process rights between loss of employment and issues with far-reaching consequences that could permanently impact a teacher's right to practice through its new "optional alternative evaluative dismissal process." However, by making this dismissal process "optional" and an "alternative," districts have the potential to opt out of this more expedient process. In addition, Illinois should ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once and only at the district level.
Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.