Dismissal for Poor Performance: Minnesota

Exiting Ineffective 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.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Minnesota results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MN-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-10

Analysis of Minnesota's policies

In Minnesota, tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 14 days to file the first appeal. The state does not specify a time frame for this hearing except that it must be "held upon appropriate and timely notice to the teacher." An appeal for judicial review is possible, but the state does not specify a time frame or the procedures for this appeal.

Minnesota does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, nor does the state 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 inefficiency in teaching; neglect of duty, or persistent violation of school laws, rules, regulations, or directives; conduct unbecoming a teacher which materially impairs the teacher's educational effectiveness; and other good and sufficient grounds rendering the teacher unfit to perform the teacher's duties.


Recommendations for Minnesota

Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Euphemistic terms such as "inefficiency" are ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Minnesota should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so 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 drag on for years drain resources from school districts and create a disincentive for districts to attempt to terminate poor performers. Therefore, the state must ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once, as it is in the best interest of both the teacher and the district that a conclusion be reached within a reasonable time frame. 

Distinguish the process and accompanying due process rights between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
While 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 impact a teacher's right to practice. Minnesota should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.  

State response to our analysis

The state recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and pointed to its comment in Goal 5-B, which referenced legislation that was passed on developing a teacher evaluation system. The state noted that the legislation requires the new system to include a mechanism for addressing ineffective teachers that "makes inefficiency in teaching or managing a school grounds for terminating a teacher's employment." The state added that this language is effective for bargaining agreements ratified after July 1, 2014. 

Last word

"Inefficiency in teaching" is still ambiguous and does not ensure that districts have grounds to dismiss teachers for ineffective classroom performance.

Research rationale

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://www.tntp.org/.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steve Brill, "The Rubber Room," New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
Also, see Scott Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1135269736359.pdf.