Think tank: Idaho avoids firing teachers because of performance

A Washington, D.C.-based think tank says Idaho is one of 29 states that does not require effectiveness data to influence teacher dismissals.

The National Council on Teacher Quality‘s latest nationwide analysis of teacher effectiveness and personnel policies compares dismissal and layoff guidelines among all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Kate Walsh

While 38 states, including Idaho, require regular teacher evaluations, most “do not acknowledge that teachers can and should be dismissed for the simple reason that they do not teach well,” the NCTQ notes.

Fear of legal reprisal has shaped the reluctance to base dismissals on performance, says NCTQ President Kate Walsh.

“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,” Walsh wrote in a prepared statement.

All 50 states have at least some laws on the books enumerating why teachers can be dismissed, from unprofessionalism to illegal behavior, the NCTQ notes.

Idaho law outlining the process for dismissing certified school personnel for unsatisfactory performance includes a “reasonable period of probation.” School boards must provide a written notice with reasons for placing a teacher on probation and “provisions for adequate supervision and evaluation of the person’s performance during the probationary period.”

Despite what Walsh called a “culture of tolerance” that harms both the “health and reputation of the teaching profession” and students, the report notes some “positive signs.”

Ten states have changed their dismissal laws since 2011, the NCTQ says, with eight now requiring teacher effectiveness information to inform layoff decisions. The NCTQ singles out Florida for “not permitting teachers with unsatisfactory ratings to renew their contracts” and praises Colorado, Georgia, and Louisiana for layoff policies that “prioritize keeping their best teachers.”

Disclaimer: The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation donate to NCTQ and fund Idaho Education News. 

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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