Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Dismissing teachers: Is California Different?

The Vergara decision, assuming it’s upheld, will make it far easier to dismiss teachers in California. In California, it’s very, very hard to dismiss a teacher for cause. Harder than in most of the rest of the country. While it seems logical that removing tenure rules will lead to moving out really bad teachers, it’s not so clear that’s what will happen.

California isn’t noticeable “behind” other states in moving teaches out. The fact is, California is already a pretty average state when it comes to dismissing teachers for cause. The average school district dismissed for cause 5.8/10ths of one percent of teachers in 2011-12. The number for California was 5.3/10ths of a percent. Here’s a little map I made.

Dismissal for cause rates

California just doesn’t stand out. (The “state” that really stands out is D.C.) If California’s “tough” tenure laws didn’t result in low dismissal rates, why should removing it make much difference?

By the way, if you check the data on the fraction of teachers not renewed “for any reason”–on the theory that the map above misses teachers removed “for cause” but not reported as such to make everyone’s life easy–well, the California non-renewal rate is above the national average.

Making it possible to dismiss really bad teachers is important. Just changing the law may be more of a political statement than a cause of real change.

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2 Responses to Dismissing teachers: Is California Different?

  1. In all the commentary on dismissing teachers, analysts should pay attention to the attrition rates in the educational profession. Recent research notes this rate nears 50% in the first 5 years of teaching, and rates of first year teachers have increased as well (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/05/16/kappan_ingersoll.h31.html).
    As a retired administrator, I know that some who leave the profession might well be fine teachers who don’t want to remain in the K-12 world for a variety of reasons, but I believe most of those leaving are doing so because they find they are a mismatch in the profession. They learn this because they understand they are ineffective, and are helped to learn this by fellow teachers, administrators, parents, and even students.

    I’m not sure how to factor this very high attrition rate into understanding how to interpret the low dismissal rates that are found around the nation. The rate of doctors being forces out of the profession by professional boards is quite similar to the rate of teachers, but the attrition rate of new doctors is almost nothing. So the teaching profession actually is dismissing teachers at a far, far higher rate than is reported.
    What this means might well be that teaching is better ‘policed’ than other professions, and the mania to improve the opportunity to dismiss teachers is driven by a weak understanding of how teacher induction works.

    The article/research cited above is largely about teacher induction and worth reading.

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