Unpacking the Governor’s Proposal to Reform Tenure

“And so when I say it’s time we reform teacher tenure, I mean it.”

– Governor Malloy in his State of the State Address, February 8, 2012

We began this week by taking a look at Connecticut’s teacher tenure policies– how they work (or don’t) and why they need to be reformed. Today, we’re going to look at the specifics of Governor Malloy’s plan for reforming tenure, based upon his proposed bill, which is currently being reviewed by the Joint Committee on Education.

New Teacher Evaluation System

Under Malloy’s proposal, the teacher evaluation system would be structured in four tiers (Exemplary, Proficient, Developing, and Below Standard), rather than the current two tiers (Satisfactory and Unsatisfactory).  By having four clearly delineated tiers, this new evaluation system will set clear and standardized expectations for teachers and in turn, provide teachers with helpful and needed feedback on areas of strength and how to improve – instead of the all or nothing system that we currently have.  Under the current system, a “satisfactory” rating is grounds for continued employment.  In contrast, Malloy calls for a demonstration of effectiveness for continued employment, as demonstrated by either the “Proficient” or the “Exemplary” rating.  This model provides the opportunity for teachers to recognize their strengths and areas for improvement, just like many other professions, and sets the expectation that teachers are continual learners, just like their students.  In other words, it’s a model that defines the expectation for effective performance that all teachers must achieve to maintain their position, while promoting and supporting continuous learning and career development for teachers.

Awarding Tenure

Importantly, Malloy’s proposal also calls for a different procedure by which tenure will be awarded. Under the current system, in most districts, tenure is earned by default after four years of teaching. The Governor’s proposal seeks to award tenure on the basis of performance – which would limit tenure to teachers who have demonstrated that they are effective.  Specifically, the Governor provides two routes to tenure:

  • Obtaining two “Exemplary” ratings in three school years; or
  • Obtaining three “Proficient” or “Exemplary” ratings in five school years.

If the Governor’s proposal to reform how tenure is obtained is implemented, only teachers that can prove that they are effective will receive tenure, as opposed to tenure being conferred to teachers as a matter of course based on time served.

Amending the Grounds and Process for Dismissal

In the current system, a tenured teacher cannot be dismissed for ineffective teaching. The Governor has proposed addressing this problem by amending one of the six statutorily delineated standards for dismissal – from “incompetent” to “ineffective.” The proposed bill defines a teacher as being “ineffective” if he or she receives either: (a) Two “Developing” ratings; or (b) one “Below Standard” rating.  Under the proposal, any teacher, tenured or not, whose evaluations demonstrate continued ineffectiveness – may face dismissal.  In other words, tenure, under the Governor’s proposal, is no longer a shield for a teacher who ceases to be effective.

The Governor’s proposal for reforming tenure also calls for limiting the scope and timeframe in which a teacher can appeal a dismissal decision.  While the current system allows factual considerations in the hearing – which can take up to 75 days of testimony or more – the proposed appeal system will only permit procedural considerations – and will be limited to a 30-day hearing.

All of these proposals to reforming tenure would go a long way towards correcting the currently flawed system and ensuring that an effective teacher is in every classroom in Connecticut.  We think you’d agree that Connecticut’s students deserve nothing less than excellent teachers.