2017 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 was consistent between 2015 and 2017.
Link to Ineffectiveness: Kansas does not explicitly make teacher ineffectiveness grounds for dismissal. However, in its effort to eliminate teacher tenure, the state has repealed the law that gave teachers who faced dismissal after three years in the classroom the right to an independent review of their cases. Now, teacher contracts are entered into for one year and are deemed to continue for the next succeeding school year unless written notice for any reason is served.
Due Process Distinction: Because Kansas teachers enter into yearly contracts, this component is not applicable.
Appeals Process: Because Kansas teachers enter into yearly contracts, this component is not applicable.
Kansas Statute 72-5437
Specify that classroom ineffectiveness is grounds for dismissal.
Kansas is on track by making it easier to dismiss poorly performing teachers. However, the state should rethink its policy and instead make an explicit link between dismissal and ineffectiveness in the classroom. For example, the state should consider a policy that would result in any teacher who receives two consecutive ineffective evaluations or two such ratings within five years being formally eligible for dismissal.
Ensure that teachers terminated for poor performance have the opportunity to appeal within a reasonable time frame.
By eliminating a teacher's right to an independent review of his or her case, Kansas has equated reasonable due process with no due process. A teacher who is terminated for poor performance should have an opportunity to appeal. In the interests of both the teacher and the school district, the state should ensure that this appeal occurs within a reasonable time frame.
Kansas recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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.