2013 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy
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.
Rhode Island explicitly makes teacher ineffectiveness grounds for
dismissal by requiring districts to dismiss "all educators who are rated
ineffective for two consecutive years." In fact, Rhode Island does not
articulate specific grounds for termination of teachers' contracts other
Tenured teachers who are terminated have multiple opportunities to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may—within 15 days—request a hearing. The state does not articulate a time frame for this hearing. This decision may then be appealed to both the department of elementary and secondary education and to the superior court.
Rhode Island General Law 16-13-4 Rhode Island Educator Evaluation System Standards http://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Teachers-and-Administrators-Excellent-Educators/Educator-Evaluation/Ed-Eval-Standards/EdEvalStandards.pdf
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.
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. In addition, the state should ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once and only at the district level. The decision should be made only by those with educational expertise.
Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that the recommendation notes a difference between ineffectiveness and other reasons for loss of employment with due process rights. Individuals who have committed morality violations, felonies, or dereliction of duty would also be subject to state-level review of their license and may face revocation.
States need to be explicit that teacher ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Most states have laws on their books that address teacher dismissal; however, these laws are much more likely to consider criminal and moral violations than performance. When performance is included, it is too often in a euphemistic term 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.