Tenure : Rhode Island

2011 Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Nearly meets
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Tenure : Rhode Island results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/RI-Tenure--8

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Commendably, Rhode Island has discontinued its policy of automatic tenure. The state now bases the leap in professional standing from probationary to nonprobationary status on evidence of classroom effectiveness.
 
Teachers who receive two years of ineffective evaluations will be dismissed. Any teacher with five years of ineffective ratings would not be eligible to have his or her certification renewed by the state.

Because Rhode Island's teacher evaluation ratings are centered primarily on evidence of student learning (see Goal 3-B), basing tenure decisions on these evaluation ratings ensures that classroom effectiveness is appropriately considered. 

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Articulate a process that local districts must administer when deciding which teachers get tenure.
Although Rhode Island has taken important steps to ensure that ineffective teachers are not awarded tenure, the state should still require a clear process, such as a hearing, to ensure that the local district reviews a teacher's performance before making a determination regarding tenure. Without such a process, there is no assurance that teachers with a single "ineffective" rating or multiple "needs improvement" ratings are not awarded tenure automatically.  

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

How we graded

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 evidence. 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.

To make tenure meaningful, states should require a clear process, such as a hearing, for districts to use when considering whether a teacher advances from probationary to permanent status. Such a process would ensure that the local district reviews the teacher's performance before making a determination. This also protects the teacher's rights, as he or she knows of the process and has an opportunity to participate.

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 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.

Research rationale

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, "Assuming the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Center for Reinventing Public Education. (2009).  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 Robert Gordon, et al., "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, Brookings Institute, March 2006.