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.
Nevada ensures that all postprobationary teachers will return to probationary status if they receive two consecutive years of unsatisfactory evaluations (see "Tenure" analysis and recommendations).
Although Nevada has attempted to address issues of due process and dismissal by reverting ineffective teachers to nonprobationary status, the state also retains other policy that 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; immorality, unprofessional conduct; insubordination; neglect of duty; physical or mental incapacity; conviction of a felony or of a crime involving moral turpitude; inadequate performance; failure to show normal improvement and evidence of professional training and growth; advocating overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of Nevada by force, violence or other unlawful means, or the advocating or teaching of communism with the intent to indoctrinate pupils to subscribe to communistic philosophy; any cause which constitutes grounds for the revocation of a teacher's license; and dishonesty.
In addition, a postprobationary teacher deemed to be probationary due to unsatisfactory performance who faces dismissal may request an expedited hearing according to the procedures established by the American Arbitration Association.
Align dismissal law to support evaluation law.
In order to clearly articulate that ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal in Nevada, the state should reconcile its evaluation policy—which suggests that unsatisfactory evaluations would be grounds for dismissal—with the state's dismissal policy—which alludes to "inadequate performance" as grounds for dismissal. In doing so, the state should make it clear that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal for any teacher, regardless of tenure status.
Ensure that the appeals process occurs within a reasonable time frame, and that due process rights are distinguished between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies, or dereliction of duty.
Although Nevada has taken steps to expedite the dismissal process for teachers deemed to be ineffective, it remains unclear how the appeals process will work for teachers involved in expedited hearings, and whether the state has set a reasonable time frame for this process. In addition, the state could do more to distinguish due process rights for teachers dismissed for ineffective performance from teachers facing license revocation for dereliction of duty or felony and/or morality violations.
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 explict 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.
Nonprobationary 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 poor performances. 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.
Dismissal for Poor Performance: Supporting Research
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://tntp.org/ideas-and-innovations.
For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steven Brill, "The Rubber Room," The New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
Also, see S. Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at: http://thehiddencostsoftenure.com.