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: New Jersey makes ineffectiveness explicit grounds for dismissal. If a teacher receives two years of ineffective ratings—or year one is partially effective and year two is ineffective—then the superintendent must file a charge of inefficiency. If a teacher in year one is ineffective and in year two is partially effective—or if partially effective both years—then the superintendent, upon a written finding of exceptional circumstances, may file a charge of inefficiency or may defer until the following year. If in that following year the rating is ineffective or partially effective, then a charge of inefficiency must be filed.
Due Process Distinction: New Jersey does not 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, incapacity, conduct unbecoming a teacher or other just cause."
Appeals Process: New Jersey's tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving a notice of dismissal, teachers have 10 days to respond, unless given an extension for good cause. The commissioner then has five days to determine whether the charges warrant dismissal. If so, the commissioner refers the case to an arbitrator for a hearing. The hearing shall take place within 45 days of an arbitrator being assigned the case, and the arbitrator shall render a decision within 45 days of the hearing. Further, the arbitrator's decision is final and binding and cannot be appealed to the commissioner.
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. Therefore, New Jersey 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.
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. New Jersey should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
New Jersey 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.