Tenure: North Carolina

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy


The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Meets goal in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Tenure: North Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NC-Tenure-22

Analysis of North Carolina's policies

North Carolina has recently eliminated tenure for its teachers. 

Teachers employed for less than three years are given one-year contracts. A contract between a district and a teacher who has been employed for three years or more must be for a term of one, two or four years. A teacher can only be recommended for a contract term of more than one year if the teacher has "shown effectiveness as demonstrated by proficiency on the evaluation instrument."
Regrettably, although North Carolina connects its extended contract decisions to its teacher evaluations, teachers are only required to earn a rating of proficient on Standards One to Five, which do not incorporate student growth measures (see Goal 3-B). 

May 19, 2014: Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ordered a permanent injunction against the implementation of the law that ends career status, known as teacher tenure. The judge's decision applies statewide to teachers who already have tenure, but not to those who haven't yet earned it.


Recommendations for North Carolina

Connect extended contract decisions to evidence of effectiveness. 
Rather than utilize a proficiency rating, which does not take into account student growth measures, North Carolina should instead require that teachers earn at least an effective status rating, which does ensure that evidence of effectiveness, in order to be offered a four-year contract. 

State response to our analysis

North Carolina was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for this analysis. In a subsequent response, the state added that new tenure language requires that districts offer four-year contracts to teachers—and that teachers accept the contracts—prior to the end of the 2013-2014 school year. At that point, North Carolina asserted that it will not have student growth information compiled; as in most states, it will need the summer months to do quality checking on assessment results and run its value-added model. Given these restraints, the districts can only offer four-year contracts to teachers who are rated at the proficient level or higher on Standards One through Five. 

Research rationale

Tenure should be a significant and consequential milestone in a teacher's career.

The decision to give teachers tenure (or permanent status) is usually made automatically, with little thought, deliberation or consideration of actual evidence. State policy should reflect the fact that initial certification is temporary and probationary, and that tenure is intended to be a significant reward for teachers who have consistently shown effectiveness and commitment. Tenure and advanced certification are not rights implied by the conferring of an initial teaching certificate. No other profession, including higher education, offers practitioners tenure after only a few years of working in the field.

States should also ensure that evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant (but not the only) criterion for making tenure decisions. Most states confer tenure at a point that is too early for the collection of sufficient and adequate data that reflect teacher performance. Ideally, states would accumulate such data for five years. This robust data set would prevent effective teachers from being unfairly denied tenure based on too little data and ineffective teachers from being granted tenure.

Tenure: Supporting Research

Numerous studies illustrate how difficult and uncommon the process is of dismissing tenured teachers for poor performance. These studies underscore the need for an extended probationary period that would allow teachers to demonstrate their capability to promote student performance.

For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see D. Goldhaber and M. Hansen, "Assessing the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Calder Institute, February 2010, Working Paper 31.  Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class.

For additional evidence see R. Gordon, T. Kane, and D. Staiger, "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," The Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, The Brookings Institute, April 2006.