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 remains unchanged in 2021.
Link to ineffectiveness: Michigan identifies classroom ineffectiveness as grounds for dismissal. "If a teacher is rated as ineffective on three consecutive annual year-end evaluations," the district shall dismiss the teacher.
Due process distinction: Michigan requires that nonprobationary teachers have the opportunity to request a review of the evaluation and rating within 20 days of being informed of the rating. Only two reviews can be requested every three school years. Even so, the dismissal proceedings for an ineffective teacher are the same as those for teachers dismissed for a "reason that is not arbitrary or capricious."
Appeals process: Michigan's tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 20 days to file the first appeal with the tenure commission; the hearing must be concluded within 75 days. The teacher may then file an additional appeal with the court of appeals within 20 days. The state does not specify a time frame for this appeal.
Michigan Teacher Tenure Act 38.101; 104 Michigan Revised School Code Act 451 of 1976 Section 380.1249
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. Therefore, Michigan must ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once and only at the district level. It is in the best interest of both the teacher and the district that a conclusion is reached within a reasonable time frame.
Michigan 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.