Teacher Contracts, Evaluation Policies, and Termination

The VA General Assembly is considering a number of bills that affect education.  One is HB576, which deals with teacher contracts, evaluation policies, and reasons for terminating a teacher, among other things.

Current Law

Currently teachers are hired for what is called a continuing contract after they’ve completed their probationary period. A continuing contract runs for 5 years and specifies step and grade increases, as well as the length of the school day and number of days in the school year.

Current state law requires each teacher to have an evaluation every three years, and requires the evaluation to include: “student academic progress and the skills and knowledge of instructional personnel, including, but not limited to, instructional methodology, classroom management, and subject matter knowledge.”  The evaluation can be informal and doesn’t have to be written.

Teachers can only be terminated for just cause.

Local school divisions can issue local eligibility licenses to teacher candidates and hire teacher candidates holding local eligibility licenses as teachers.

New teachers currently serve a 3 year probationary period.

Proposed Changes Under HB 576

Name “continuing contract” will be changed to “term contract”.  Contract length will be shortened to 3 years from 5.

School Year will be 200 days, of which 180 days (or 990 hours) will be instructional days.

Teachers will be formally evaluated once every three years, the evaluation must be written and will remain in the employees personnel file.  An informal evaluation must be given each year in which a formal evaluation is not provided.  One or more bad performance evaluations will be considered just cause for termination.

Local school divisions will no longer be able to issue local eligibility licenses to teacher candidates or employ people holding local eligibility licenses.

New teachers will be required to serve a 5 year probationary period and receive an informal evaluation in their first semester teaching.    Experienced teachers who move to another school division in Virginia may be required to serve another 5 year probationary period with their new school division.

Terminations resulting from reductions in force must be based, in part, on the “performance evaluations of the teachers potentially affected by the reduction in workforce”.

Status

The bill passed the House on Feb 13, 2012 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health on Feb 14 2012.

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3 Responses to “Teacher Contracts, Evaluation Policies, and Termination”

  1. ed Says:

    While the threat of dismissal should really be a last resort, in private industry we get evaluated every year and have no guarantee week to week.
    As Virginia is a “right to work” state, you are lucky to get a contract for that long. Right to work is really right to fire without cause.

    The fear for me would be “Terminations resulting from reductions in force…” could be used to lose teachers who don’t tow the line or that are more senior and therefore more expensive.

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    You’re absolutely right, Ed. In private industry there is no guarantee of work week to week as most private employees are “at-will” employees, so your employer can fire you whenever his or her “will” changes. Workers under a collective contract like our teachers, have slightly different rules, one of which is that they can only be terminated for cause. This bill defines cause as one or more poor performance evaluations, among other things.

    That certainly gives more power to administrators, who are sometimes pretty frightening. With student academic performance one part of the evaluation, that does make you think. What if a Principal really supported an instructional program a teacher felt would undermine student learning – does that teacher speak out? Do his / her own thing because he / she wants to do what’s right for his / her students? Or just follow along knowing it will hurt his / her students but fearing backlash if he / she speaks out?

    I know which practice we’ve seen these past bunch of years.

    Maybe we need some sort of “whistle blower” policy, which would guarantee anonymity to teachers who report concerns about administrative mandates.

    Oh – I think right to work only means that employees don’t have to be members of the union as a condition of employment and don’t have to pay dues unless they join the union. In a non-right-to-work state, all employees in a workplace represented by a union or trade association must be members of that union / trade association and must pay dues – if they don’t join or don’t pay dues, they get fired.

  3. Va Legislative Update « PWC Education Reform Blog Says:

    […] back to committee, which means it won’t be voted on this year.  The changes in the bill (see here)  included updating the tenure system for teachers by changing the term of their contracts from 5 to […]


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