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.
In Texas, tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may—within 15 days—file a request for a hearing. A hearing officer is chosen within 10 days, and the hearing must be completed within 60 days after the teacher's request is received. Within 20 days of the decision, the teacher may file an appeal with the commissioner, whose decision must be filed within 30 days after the last day on which a response to the petition for review may be filed. This decision may then be appealed to the district court.
Texas does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal, nor does the state 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 cause as determined by the board of trustees."
Texas Education Code 21.156; 253; 254; 257; 301, 304; 307.
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Texas 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 drag on for years drain resources from school districts and create a disincentive for districts to attempt to terminate poor performers. Therefore, Texas 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 be reached within a reasonable time frame.
Distinguish the process and accompanying due process rights 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 impact a teacher's right to practice. Texas should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.
Texas asserted that "case law and Commissioner of Education decisions have clearly established that teacher ineffectiveness constitutes good cause for termination." The state added that while some cases have held that remediation is required for an ineffective teacher, state code clearly establishes that failure to complete the requirements of an ineffective teacher's intervention plan is grounds for termination.
In addition, Texas noted that except for a final right of appeal to state district court, termination and nonrenewal appeals are heard only by school boards, hearing examiners trained and certified by the Texas Education Agency, and the Commissioner of Education.
Further, the state asserted that while all teacher terminations and nonrenewals from school employment are subject to the same due process rights (which are dependent on the term and type of teacher contract), those that involve educator misconduct related to morality and teacher ethics issues are required to be reported to the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for possible certification sanctions. The state also pointed out other statutes that treat dismissal for morality and ethics issues differently from those involving ineffective performance.
NCTQ recognizes that Texas has additional code that specifically deals with license revocation for teachers who are dismissed for moral and ethical reasons, such as committing a felony. However, as the state notes, the dismissal code's language does not differentiate the due process rights of these teachers, meaning that all teachers facing termination go through the same drawn-out steps. Importantly, the state should consider incorporating language into its dismissal policy that specifically makes ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal so that there is no ambiguity among districts seeking to terminate poor performers.
Further, while training hearing examiners is smart policy, teachers facing dismissal are still permitted to appeal to the district court, where those hearing cases are unlikely to have similar training or educational expertise.