Retaining Effective 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. This goal was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Link to Ineffectiveness: South Carolina does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds
Due Process Distinction: South Carolina 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 "persistent neglect of duty, willful violation of rules and regulations of district board of trustees, drunkenness, conviction of a violation of the law of this State or the United States, gross immorality, dishonesty, illegal use, sale or possession of drugs or narcotics."
Appeals Process: South Carolina's tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may, within 15 days, request a hearing, which must occur within 45 days. There is no longer guidance as to when the decision must be rendered. The teacher may then file an additional appeal within 30 days with the county court of common pleas. The state does not specify the time frame for this appeal.
South Carolina Code of Laws 59-25-430, -470, -480
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
South Carolina should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so that districts do not feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers.
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 remain open over multiple years drain resources from school districts and disincentivize districts from terminating poor performers. Therefore, South Carolina 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. South Carolina should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
South Carolina asserted that teachers employed under an annual contract may request an informal hearing before the district superintendent. The statute provided also outlines time frames for appeal. The state pointed out that the analysis outlines the hearing and appeals procedures for teachers under continuing contracts.
NCTQ's analysis pertains to teachers with continuing contract status. As discussed in the 1-B: Tenure goal, teachers in South Carolina are required to serve at least one induction year and at least one annual contract year before earning continuing contract status. In its 2015 state response to the Dismissal goal (5-B: Dismissal for Poor Performance in 2015), South Carolina indicated that annual contract teachers are automatically dismissed for failure to meet evaluation expectations for a second time.
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.