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Teacher Evaluation as a Growth Process: Teacher Dismissal

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 9: “Teacher Dismissal” of Dr. Dianna Whitlock’s published book, “Teacher Evaluation as a Growth Process.” To purchase the full book, visit Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

Part 1, Chapter 9: Teacher Dismissal

In Chapter Two, we discussed why we evaluate.  This chapter is intended to dig deeper into this question, including practical reasons for the school administrator to evaluate teachers and provide meaningful feedback to their subordinates, leading to benefits for the school district as a whole.  

My hope is that this book, and this chapter in particular, reflect the tone of my personal philosophy that evaluation and feedback not be used for punitive purposes.  Rather, that these are utilized as growth exercises that help those around us develop professionally.  If that is the case, then I hope this question will evoke an easy answer:

Is the purpose of teacher evaluation teacher improvement, or teacher dismissal?

By choosing teacher improvement (as I hope all readers do!), we are not discounting or ignoring that sometimes teacher dismissal is necessary.  There are times when we must use our evaluation data to lead courageous conversations with those for whom teaching is not their forte.  However, it is the hope of this writer that these instances occur only in severe circumstances (a teacher poses a threat to a student) or after significant attempts to guide this teacher to improve are not successful. There are also cases where retaining a teacher is actually doing a disservice to our students. Overall, we know that the evaluation process must not be one of targeting individuals for dismissal, but rather one of constructive feedback and identification of areas for individual improvement. 

Dismissal of an Ineffective Teacher

Dismissing an ineffective teacher, or any employee, may be one of the most difficult tasks that an administrator will face in their career. Even when procedures are established and followed appropriately, there will likely be some form of appeal from the individual, and the emotional side of teacher dismissal will still come in to play. Administrators recognize that employee termination places a burden on an individual’s career and ability to provide for one’s family. That being said, dismissal of ineffective teachers is often necessary for improvement of the school and to provide students with the best educational opportunities possible.

Definition of an Ineffective Teacher

The first step in dismissing an ineffective teacher is establishing a definition of an ineffective teacher. This has received much attention in recent years. As a result of legislation on teacher evaluation, most local education agencies are allowed to define an ineffective teacher as a part of their teacher evaluation system. Evaluators now have a rubric or list of traits to observe in order to designate a teacher’s effectiveness. Multiple measures stipulations require schools to incorporate some measure of student growth data into the effectiveness rating, as we discussed in Chapter Five.

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