Report: More States Using Teacher Performance in Tenure Decisions

Report: More States Using Teacher Performance in Tenure Decisions

A new report finds that more states are requiring teacher performance to be considered in school employment decisions, including those regarding tenure.

The report, compiled by policy analyst Jennifer Thomsen at the Education Commission of the States, observes that a growing number of states are beginning to reconsider whether teacher performance should be considered in tenure and other school job-related decisions, despite long-standing traditions, influenced by teachers’ unions, against the idea.

According to the study, four states – Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, and Idaho – have opted to repeal tenure outright, phase out tenure, or remove due process provisions. In the case of Idaho, however, where tenure was abolished, voters reversed the decision after aggressive teachers’ unions’ campaigns.

As the report indicates, 16 states, an increase from 10, currently use teachers’ performance ratings as a component of decisions to grant tenure, and seven states require school districts to return teachers to probationary status for unsatisfactory performance.

In addition, 11 states demand that teacher performance be the primary consideration in making lay-off decisions rather than tenure status or seniority. Washington State will add this requirement in 2015-16.

As noted at National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), teacher tenure laws, which protect teachers’ jobs based on years of employment, have been in force for 90 years. Generally, they require teachers to complete three years of a “probationary” period of employment prior to receiving the tenure protections. Once “tenured,” however, a teacher can expect automatic renewal of his or her contract as well as other due process rights if he or she is fired.

As more states consider making teacher performance a criterion for employment decisions, more variations in policy are occurring.

Oklahoma, for instance, grants teachers non-probationary status after three years of service only with a “superior” rating for at least two years with no ratings below “effective” at any time in employment history.

“Ineffective” ratings for teachers in Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Arizona, and Louisiana will land them on probationary status.

“All states are free to strengthen their teacher tenure requirements and impose stronger evaluation components into tenure decision-making,” observes NCPA.