- Fewer than half of states require school districts to use teacher effectiveness data in decisions to dismiss teachers or issue layoffs, according to a new analysis by the National Council on Teacher Quality.
- The “databurst” notes, for example, that states in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Pacific regions of the U.S. lack policies linking teacher effectiveness results to personnel decisions. But it highlights states such as Nevada, Tennessee, Florida and Indiana for having policies such as considering teachers with two consecutive “less-than-effective” ratings as incompetent and using those ratings as grounds for dismissal.
- The authors recommend that districts eliminate policies that primarily use seniority in decisions on who to lay off and to ensure that a dismissal process, if necessary, takes no longer than 90 days.
Earlier work by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed that in 17 of 25 urban districts across the country, teachers were able to earn and keep tenure despite their performance. Districts where it was “very difficult to dismiss” teachers included the nation’s largest school districts — Chicago, Los Angeles and New York — and in those areas, the dismissal process could take as long as two years.
In a news release, NCTQ President Kate Walsh referred to a “culture of tolerance” and said “districts tend to reserve their energy” for incidents in which a teacher has committed a crime instead of taking steps to dismiss one who can’t teach his or her subject area.
Dismissal policies, however, can also be viewed in the larger context of what programs or practices are in place to get effective teachers in the classroom in the first place, as well as to help struggling teachers improve. To address teacher shortages, states have been “filling the vacuum with underprepared teachers,” according to a recent Learning Policy Institute report. The authors point to teacher residencies and strong mentoring and induction programs as examples of how to prepare and support new teachers so they can be more successful. Some districts have also had success working with their unions to implement peer assistance and review programs in which struggling teachers are paired with master educators and given opportunities to improve before being dismissed.