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.
Kansas does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. However, in its effort to eliminate teacher tenure, the state has repealed the law that gave teachers who faced dismissal after three years in the classroom the right to an independent review of their cases. Now, teacher contracts are entered into for one year and are deemed to continue for the next succeeding school year unless written notice for any reason is served.
Kansas Statute 72-5437
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Kansas is on track by making it easier to dismiss poorly performing teachers. However, the state should rethink its policy and instead make an explicit link between dismissal and ineffectiveness in the classroom. Specifically, any teacher who receives two consecutive ineffective evaluations or two such ratings within five years should be formally eligible for dismissal.
Ensure that teachers terminated for poor performance have the opportunity to appeal within a reasonable time frame.
By eliminating a teacher's right to an independent review of his or her case, Kansas has equated reasonable due process with no due process. A teacher who is terminated for poor performance should have an opportunity to appeal. In the interest of both the teacher and the school district, the state should ensure that this appeal occurs within a reasonable time frame.
Kansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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 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.