Dismissal for Poor Performance: Ohio

Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Meets in part
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2015). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Ohio results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/OH-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-73

Analysis of Ohio's policies

Ohio makes ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal.  After a teacher has received two ratings of ineffective over a three-year period, the teacher must take content examination tests and participate in professional development targeted to the deficiencies identified in his or her evaluation. An ineffective rating "after completion of the professional development, or the failure of the teacher to complete the professional development, shall be grounds for termination of the teacher."

The state 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 the state articulates vaguely as "good and just cause."

In Ohio, tenured teachers who are terminated have multiple opportunities to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may, within 10 days, request a hearing, which must occur within 30 days. The aggrieved teacher may then, within 30 days, file an additional appeal with the court of common pleas. This decision may again be appealed to the appellate court.


Citation

Recommendations for Ohio

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, Ohio 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.
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 affect a teacher's right to practice. Ohio should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.  


State response to our analysis

Ohio responded by quoting its code section: "Any teacher affected by an order of termination of contract [for any reason, including termination for poor performance, morality violations, felonies and dereliction of duty] may appeal to the court of common pleas of the county in which the school is located within thirty days after receipt of notice of the entry of such order," and asserting that there is no difference of the appeal process to be followed based on the reason for termination. Either party (i.e., school board of education or teacher) may appeal the decision of the common pleas court to the court of appeals.

Ohio further pointed out that it is not aware of any teacher termination cases that have dragged on for years in the state and wondered if NCTQ could provide a reference or specific case and year, as well as how long it took to complete the appeal process.

Regarding "good and just cause," Ohio contended that the scope of this phrase and what it means in the context of teacher termination have been defined in somewhat limited terms by judicial decisions. A better understanding of “good and just cause” in this context (including case law) can be obtained by a review of Anderson’s Ohio School Law Guide, 2015 Education, Kimball H. Carey, Editor.

According to Anderson’s Ohio School Law Guide (2015), “…the statute [ORC 3319.16] … now permits termination for (simply) good and just cause…the historical evidence indicates a legislative intent to remove unnecessary barriers to the removal of poorly performing teachers” (p. 829).

"[T]he Ohio Supreme Court—applying the former law—declared that because the phrase [good and just cause] appeared in conjunction with other phrases such as “gross inefficiency or immorality,” it was intended to indicate “a fairly serious matter.” Thus the context of the phrase “good and just cause” was interpreted as creating a higher bar for termination than the words themselves might otherwise have suggested. Because that context has now been removed [2009 amendments to ORC 3319.16], the legislature may logically be viewed as having lowered the bar for termination …” (p. 835).




Last word

By allowing multiple appeals, the state cannot ensure that ineffective teachers will be dismissed in a timely manner. While the phrase “drag on for years” may perhaps be hyperbolic in Ohio’s case, it seems highly unlikely that cases are working their way through the court of common pleas and the appellate court in short order. 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 only unfair to districts and students, they are also unfair to teachers, who are entitled to final resolutions quickly.

In addition, concerning how certain phrases of statute have been interpreted in case law over the years, even if this is the case, NCTQ wonders why Ohio wouldn’t want to amend the statute to be explicit about these matters, as most other state have now done.



Research rationale

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.