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.
In Washington, tenured teachers who are terminated have multiple opportunities to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may request a hearing. Within 15 days, a hearing officer is appointed who schedules a prehearing conference within five days. The hearing must then begin within 10 days following the prehearing conference, and a decision is rendered no more than 10 days after its conclusion. The teacher may then file an additional appeal with the superior court within 30 days. The state does not articulate a time frame for this hearing, only requiring that it occur "expeditiously." This decision may also be appealed to the appellate court.
Washington 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 "probable cause."
Revised Code of Washington 28A.405.300; 310; 320;330; 340;350; 360
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
"Probable cause" is ambiguous at best and may be interpreted as concerning dereliction of duty rather than ineffectiveness. Washington 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, the state 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. Washington should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are only decided by those with educational expertise.
Washington recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.