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 remains unchanged in 2021.
Link to ineffectiveness: Wisconsin does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal.
Due process distinction: Wisconsin 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 "inefficiency or immorality, for willful and persistent violation of reasonable regulations of the governing body of the school system or school or for other good cause."
Appeals process: Wisconsin allows tenured teachers who are terminated to have one opportunity to appeal. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher may request a hearing with the governing body of the school system, which must occur within 30 days. The decision of this appeal is final.
Wisconsin Statute 118.23(3)
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Wisconsin should explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. Doing so will help ensure that districts do not feel they lack the legal basis for terminating consistently poor performers.
Distinguish between the process and 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. Wisconsin should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
Wisconsin recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that its evaluation system does not result in an overall summative rating and does not set rules regarding dismissal based on effectiveness. However, a school or district would have plenty of data and evidence from the system to determine if a teacher was ineffective and not improving, and can and should utilize this data to inform termination on an individual basis.
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.