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Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Significant Legal Barriers Exist to the Dismissal of Teachers
Press Release

RELEASE: Significant Legal Barriers Exist to the Dismissal of Teachers

Saba Bireda, Education Policy Analyst at CAP, Provides a Comprehensive Analysis of Teacher Dismissal Laws from all 50 States and D.C.

Washington, D.C. – As districts pay increased attention to teacher evaluation and success, chronically ineffective and other poor-performing teachers will be identified for dismissal. But administrators face significant legal obstacles in dismissing teachers because of vague, outdated, and ineffective state laws, which make dismissal a remarkably difficult management process, according to "Devil in the Details: An Analysis of State Teacher Dismissal Laws,” a new report from the Center for American Progress by Saba Bireda.

The report includes a comprehensive analysis of teacher dismissal laws from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and Bireda identifies major obstacles to fair and efficient dismissal, including the fact that most state laws provide the same hearing procedures to all teachers, regardless of the reason for dismissal. Bireda also explains that while ineffective teachers are often dismissed for being "incompetent," state laws rarely provide a workable definition of poor instructional performance.

Dismissal is perceived as a local issue, handled by individual school administrators and local school boards, but the process is largely shaped by state law. Far too many states have laws that are vague and ineffective and do little to help exit teachers who have been identified for dismissal. State laws rarely link evaluation to dismissal and only a few states follow the lead of Illinois in explicitly suggesting that teachers with multiple negative evaluations be made eligible for dismissal. As districts move to improve their human capital systems, this must change, and policymakers should reform state laws to help exit poor-performing teachers in a fair and efficient manner. The report suggests common sense reforms for state policymakers to consider, such as:

  • State laws should articulate different dismissal procedures that correspond to the particular performance issues for which the teacher is being dismissed.
  • States should consider establishing a state-run system of selecting hearing officers to ensure efficiency and consistency of results.
  • States should consider requiring districts and teachers to participate in nonbinding mediation sessions to encourage alternative resolutions beyond those offered through the traditional disciplinary process.
  • States should clarify vague legal terms and processes in state laws that contribute to inefficient hearings.
  • State and district policymakers should work collaboratively with unions to create fair and efficient dismissal procedures that incorporate peer assistance and review programs.

Read full report "Devil in the Details: An Analysis of State Teacher Dismissal Laws