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: Louisiana does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. The state allows for disciplinary action for "poor performance," but there is no definitive link between poor performance and a teacher's evaluation score.
Due Process Distinction: Louisiana does not distinguish between the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance and 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 dismissal, which include "poor performance, willful neglect of duty, incompetency, dishonesty, immorality, or of being a member of or contributing to any group, organization, movement, or corporation that is by law or injunction prohibited from operating in the state of Louisiana."
Appeals Process: Louisiana tenured teachers who are terminated have one opportunity to appeal. Within 10 days of notice of disciplinary action, a teacher may request a hearing before a disciplinary hearing officer, and a hearing must commence within 10 to 30 days. After the officer renders a decision, the teacher has up to 60 days to file an appeal with a court of competent jurisdiction.
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Louisiana should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. Doing so will help ensure 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 remain open over multiple years drain resources from school districts and disincentivize districts from terminating poor performers. Although Louisiana only allows one appeal and limits the amount of time for filing to 60 days, the fact that appeals are to a court makes the likelihood of disposition within a reasonable time frame questionable at best. The state should ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs at the district level, and that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
Distinguish between the process and accompanying due process rights for dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
Although 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 affect a teacher's right to practice. Louisiana should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
Louisiana asserted that there is a definitive link between poor performance and a teacher's evaluation score. Fifty percent of a teacher's rating is based on student growth, and 35 percent of student growth is value-added data. This means that an objective measure is used to determine evaluation ratings and poor performance.
To explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, Louisiana is urged to define "poor performance" as ineffective ratings on its teacher evaluation system.
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.