Retaining Effective 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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Link to Ineffectiveness: Indiana specifically identifies classroom ineffectiveness as grounds for dismissal. The state defines incompetence for all teachers as "receiving an ineffective designation on two consecutive performance evaluations or an ineffective designation or improvement necessary rating for three of any five years."
Due Process Distinction: Indiana's policy does not 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 include: immorality, insubordination, incompetence, neglect of duty, a conviction of an offense, and/or other good or just cause.
Appeals Process: Indiana has a streamlined appeals process. After receiving a written notice of dismissal, the teacher may—within five days—request a private conference with the superintendent, which must occur within 10 days of the request. The superintendent makes a recommendation to the governing body of the school corporation following the conference. An additional meeting—requested within five days of the initial meeting—with the governing body is also permitted. The governing body's decision is final and must be made within 30 days of the request.
Indiana Code 20-28-6-7.5; 20-28-7.5
Distinguish between the process and accompanying due process rights for dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
Indiana is commended for streamlining its dismissal process and for ensuring that ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal. In the future, the state could differentiate due process rights for loss of employment and for issues with far-reaching consequences, such as felonies, that could permanently affect a teacher's right to practice. It should be clear that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal for any teacher, regardless of tenure status.
Indiana 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.