Dismissal for Poor Performance: Texas

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Dismissal for Poor Performance: Texas results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/TX-Dismissal-for-Poor-Performance-10

Analysis of Texas's policies

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."

Citation

Recommendations for Texas

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.  

State response to our analysis

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.

Last word

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.

How we graded

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 usually 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.

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.

Research rationale

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://www.tntp.org/.

For information on the high cost of teacher dismissals, see Steve Brill, "The Rubber Room," New Yorker, August 31, 2009 at: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_brill.
 
Also, see Scott Reeder, "The Hidden Costs of Tenure: Why are Failing Teachers Getting a Passing Grade?" Small Newspaper Group, 2005 at:http://www.nctq.org/nctq/research/1135269736359.pdf.