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. (2015). Tenure: North Carolina results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/NC-Tenure-71

Analysis of North Carolina's policies

In North Carolina, teachers employed for fewer 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 "Evaluation of Effectiveness" analysis). 


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 require that teachers earn at least an effective status rating, which ensures evidence of effectiveness, in order to be offered a four-year contract.

State response to our analysis

North Carolina recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the contract process is currently being litigated in Guilford County Board of Education v. North Carolina, and that it is not certain how teachers’ contracts will be affected by the lawsuit and future legislation.

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 performance. 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 four to 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.