FILE - In this Thursday, April 26, 2018 file photo, Stephanie Rolf, center, a teacher in the Douglas County, Colo., school system, leads a cheer during a teacher rally in Denver. Teachers in Arizona and Colorado walked out of their classes keeping hundreds of thousands of students out of school - part of a series of strikes across the nation over low teacher pay. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A new report released on Thursday said many states are not balancing the need to get rid of ineffective teachers with the interest of students.

Georgia is not one of those states. In fact, Georgia has been one of the leading states in making sure that teacher effectiveness is part of the overall policy; however, the state had to change things up to retain good teachers as the Georgia Department of Education reported the previous year that most teachers felt devalued in the profession.

Since President Obama unveiled his plan for teacher evaluations, which doubled down on the use of standardized testing, many states have tried to re-write and customize their state’s evaluations to include better performance measures to evaluate teachers.

In 2016, Senate Bill 364, championed by Georgia’s elected School Superintendent Richard Woods helped, reduce the amount a teacher’s evaluation counted from standardized test scores. The change included a reduction of counting standardized test scores from 50 percent to 30 percent against the teacher.  This change was also responsible for ushering in new indicators that help create a better overall picture of effectiveness in the state.

Georgia is one of the few states looking to take advantage of the new flexibilities in testing and teacher effectiveness under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the failed efforts to hold schools accountable under George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. 

“Senate Bill 364 in 2016 added a professional growth component to the teacher evaluation system. We view that addition, and the reduction in the weight of test scores, as significant improvements. We’re also training evaluators to make sure the system is truly being used as an improvement tool and teachers are receiving specific, actionable feedback, “ said Georgia Department of Education Spokesperson Meghan Frick.  “And we’re working to expand and improve the professional learning resources and options available to teachers.”

 Georgia still has ground to make up as their yearly reports suggest that between one-three percent of Georgia’s teachers are evaluated as ineffective across the state; 97-99 percent deemed effective. 

A new analysis from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) finds that a majority of states fail to define teacher ineffectiveness as a specific reason to remove a teacher.

In NCTQ’s report, Walking the Tightrope: Teacher Effectiveness and Personnel Policies, NCTQ reviews if states are achieving an appropriate balance of interests between teachers and students when it comes to making a tough decision to keep ineffective teachers in the classroom.

While all 50 states have explicit laws on the books enumerating the many reasons teachers can be dismissed (e.g. unprofessional or illegal behavior), 29 states fail to include reasons regarding ineffectiveness in the classroom. This means that states do not acknowledge that teachers can and should be dismissed for the simple reason that they do not teach well, creating a roadblock many dismissal attempts fail to surmount.

“Districts tend to reserve their energy and sparse resources to pursue dismissals that cannot be easily challenged in a court of law, such as when a teacher has committed a crime or come to school inebriated, and not even try to dismiss a math teacher who simply cannot teach math,” commented Kate Walsh, President of NCTQ. “This culture of tolerance does harm both to the health and reputation of the teaching profession, but more importantly to students. Students pay the highest price for inaction and state roadblocks.”

School districts’ overall dismissal rates (for any reason) are rarely made public and can be difficult to verify. National data put the average number of tenured teacher dismissals for poor performance at one in 1,000. A recent investigation in New York City, which has a tenured workforce of 58,000, found that in the 2015-2016 school year the district attempted to dismiss 406 teachers overall, but only 181 for reasons due to ineffectiveness. Far fewer of these dismissals were upheld.

Similarly, research into teacher dismissals in Atlanta found that from 2011 to 2017, only 4 percent of all teacher dismissal cases mentioned teacher effectiveness or quality. These and other examples suggest that it may be a relatively common phenomenon among U.S. school districts that ineffective teachers are allowed to remain in classrooms.

“It seems counterintuitive to believe that a district would need to dismiss more teachers for the relatively rare event such as committing a crime than for just not being very good at their jobs. In any well-functioning organization, dismissals on grounds of ineffectiveness should naturally exceed dismissals for criminal behavior. The evidence to the contrary should at least raise some serious questions,” added Walsh.

Certainly, U.S. school teachers recognize the problem. In a recent survey, teachers reported that 12 percent of their colleagues are of unsatisfactory quality, a finding reiterating previous surveys of teacher opinion.

NCTQ’s analysis also examines state requirements on what districts must consider when laying off teachers. In a somewhat illogical twist, the findings demonstrate that fewer states require teacher effectiveness data to be used in layoff decisions than require these data to be used in dismissal decisions. In other words, there are eight states—Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Wyoming—where laws require ineffective teachers to be dismissed but do not require ineffective teachers to be laid off first when districts must reduce their teacher workforce.

There are promising signs, however. Since 2011, 10 states have made changes in their dismissal laws, and eight states have changed their laws to explicitly require that layoff decisions consider evidence of effectiveness. Florida is highlighted in the NCTQ analysis for the policy of not permitting teachers with unsatisfactory ratings to renew their contracts. Colorado, Georgia, and Louisiana are each acknowledged for layoff policies that prioritize keeping their best teachers.

Read the report to see the data for each state, promising state policies, and detailed policy recommendations.

Below are indicators related to Georgia teacher effectiveness –

The goal for Georgia –  

The state should articulate that ineffective classroom performance is grounds for dismissal and endure that the process for terminating ineffective teachers is expedient and fair to all parties. This goal was consistent between 2015-2017.

Analysis of Georgia’s policies

Link to ineffectiveness: Georgia makes teacher ineffectiveness explicit grounds for dismissal. The state’s teacher evaluation system mandates that “a rating of ineffective shall constitute evidence of incompetency.”

Due process distinction: Georgia does not distinguish between the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance and those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation, such as a felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for dismissal, which include incompetency, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, immorality, and inciting, encouraging or counseling students to violate any valid state law.

Appeals process: Georgia’s tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 20 days to request a hearing before the local school board or a tribunal. After that decision has been rendered, the teacher then has 30 days to file an appeal with the State Board of Education. An additional appeal to the superior court of the county within 30 days of the state board’s decision is also permitted.

 National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Dismissal: Georgia results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].

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