2011 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.
New legislation in Tennessee explicitly makes teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. The state defines "inefficiency," which is grounds for dismissal, as "having evaluations demonstrating an overall performance effectiveness level that is below expectations or significantly below expectations."
In addition, tenured teachers may return to probationary status if they receive two consecutive years of "below expectations" or "significantly below expectations" performance ratings (see Goal 3-D). Once on probationary status, if the teacher receives two consecutive evaluations of "above expectations" or "significantly above expectations," then he or she is again eligible for tenure. If tenure is not granted, then the teacher "cannot be continued in employment."
Although the state has attempted to address issues of due process and dismissal by reverting ineffective teachers to nonprobationary status, Tennessee retains 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 "incompetence, inefficiency, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct and insubordination."
In Tennessee, tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may request a hearing within 30 days. A hearing officer must be selected within 5 days, and the hearing must occur within 30 days, of the receipt of the request. The teacher may then file an additional appeal with the state board within 10 days of the hearing's conclusion. A third appeal may also be filed within 20 days with the county's chancery court.
Tennessee Code 49-5-11; 49-5-12; 49-5-501 SB 1528
Ensure that teachers terminated for poor performance have the opportunity to appeal within a reasonable time frame and that due process rights are distinguished between dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations.
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 impact 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.
Tennessee was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis.