I believe a common assumption among educational reformers, some school board members and some school administrators is that the implementation of the Illinois Performance Evaluation Reform Act (PERA) is that it will be easier for school districts to remove tenured teachers. While there are some provisions in SB7 that change some of the processes for dismissal of tenure teachers, the administrator work in gathering proof is essentially unchanged.
In teacher dismissal cases administrators need to determine if the teacher is being disciplined for misbehavior or incompetence. If the employee engages in conduct that is irremediable (as defined in a variety of teacher dismissal cases) then the teacher can be dismissed. If the conduct is remediable the employee will receive a Notice to Remedy from the school board and will continue to be employed but must remediate the behavior.
Teaching pedagogy falls into the remediable category. This requires that the administrator do the following:
- Collect evidence via informal and formal observations and share the evidence with the teacher in writing.
- Formal observations must be preceded by a conference between the teacher and the evaluator, followed by another conference between the teacher and evaluator.
- If the teacher is rated unsatisfactory there must be a process with the union to select a second evaluator.
A very important item of tenured teacher dismissal in Illinois that SB7 did not change is that the school board possesses only an investigatory/charging function in tenure dismissal cases. The hearing officer possesses the authority to decide all issues with respect to a dismissal decision, including the GRAVITY and SERIOUSNESS of the charges (Spangler 1st Dist App 2002).
A matter of great importance to the actual evaluator is what the evaluator must do with the teacher in order to meet the requirements of a well-executed evaluation of remediating the teacher. This includes the following points:
- The evaluator needs to gather the facts by observing the teacher. What exactly did the evaluator see? What happened in the classroom?
- Next the evaluator must know what a “proficient” teacher does and communicate these skills to the unsatisfactory teacher.
- The evaluator must tell the teacher in exact words what the teacher needs to do to get to the proficient level. The evaluator cannot use words such as should, may, ought to consider, etc…
- The evaluator must also tell the teacher how to do what the evaluator is directing the teacher to do.
The above listed processes and skills are the same now as they were before the implementation of PERA. The evaluator is recommended to do multiple observations of teaching, share in writing the facts from the observation along with suggested corrections to any fact that the evaluator deemed to be Needs Improvement or Unsatisfactory. The evaluator then needs to ensure that the teacher understands the directions on how to improve and also provides supports for the teacher to improve their performance.
The one major change that will occur when the district implements Performance-Based Teacher Evaluation is the use of student growth as a significant factor in the summative rating of the teacher. This is in addition to consideration of the teacher’s attendance, planning, instructional methods, classroom management and competency in the subject matter taught.