Tenure : Wisconsin

Identifying Effective Teachers Policy

Goal

The state should require that tenure decisions are based on evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Tenure : Wisconsin results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WI-Tenure--8

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

Wisconsin does not connect tenure decisions to evidence of teacher effectiveness.

Teachers in Wisconsin are awarded tenure automatically after a three-year probationary period, absent an additional process that evaluates cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness. (This only applies to teachers in populous counties: those with more than 500,000 residents.)

Citation

Recommendations for Wisconsin

End the automatic awarding of tenure.
The decision to grant tenure should be a deliberate one, based on consideration of a teacher's commitment and actual evidence of classroom effectiveness. 

Ensure evidence of effectiveness is the preponderant criterion in tenure decisions.
Wisconsin should make evidence of effectiveness, rather than the number of years in the classroom, the most significant factor when determining this leap in professional standing.

Articulate a process that local districts must administer when deciding which teachers get tenure.
Wisconsin should require a clear process, such as a hearing, to ensure that the local district reviews a teacher's performance before making a determination regarding tenure. 

Require a longer probationary period.
Wisconsin should extend its probationary period, ideally to five years. This would allow for an adequate collection of sufficient data that reflect teacher performance. 

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that in October 2010, the superintendent convened a Design Team on Educator Effectiveness. It was charged with developing key guiding principles of a high-quality educator effectiveness system, creating model performance-based evaluation systems for teachers and principals, building a regulatory framework for implementation that includes how student achievement data will be used in context and making recommendations for methods to support educator improvement and to recognize performance. 

"The ultimate goal of education is student learning. Effective educators are essential to achieving that goal for all students. We believe it is imperative that students have highly effective teams of educators to support them throughout their public education. We further believe that effective practice leading to better educational achievement requires continuous improvement and monitoring."

Wisconsin also noted that a strong evaluation system is designed to provide information that supports decisions intended to ensure continuous individual and system effectiveness. The system must be well articulated, manageable, reliable and sustainable. "The goal of this system is to provide students with highly qualified and effective educators who focus on student learning."

Research rationale

Numerous studies illustrate how difficult and uncommon the process is of dismissing tenured teachers for poor performance. These studies underscore the need for an extended probationary period that would allow teachers to demonstrate their capability to promote student performance.

For evidence on the potential of eliminating automatic tenure, articulating a process for granting tenure, and using evidence of effectiveness as criteria for tenure see D. Goldhaber and M. Hansen, "Assuming the Potential of Using Value-Added Estimates of Teacher Job Performance for Making Tenure Decisions." Center for Reinventing Public Education. (2009).  Goldhaber and Hansen conclude that if districts ensured that the bottom performing 25 percent of all teachers up for tenure each year did not earn it, approximately 13 percent more than current levels, student achievement could be significantly improved. By routinely denying tenure to the bottom 25 percent of eligible teachers, the impact on student achievement would be equivalent to reducing class size across-the-board by 5 students a class.

For additional evidence see Robert Gordon, et al., "Identifying Effective Teachers Using Performance on the Job," Hamilton Project Discussion Paper, Brookings Institute, March 2006.