Tenure laws in Tennessee changed in April 2011 with the passage of a tenure reform law. The new law makes it more difficult for public school teachers to obtain and keep tenure. Exceptional scores on annual teacher evaluations are the primary criteria for earning and keeping tenure. The law also clarifies the reasons for firing tenured teachers, while giving school principals some leeway in keeping non-tenured teachers.
Benefits of Tenure
Tenured teachers enjoy certain protections against dismissal. Tenured teachers facing dismissal may request a formal hearing. Should the teacher lose in the hearing, the case can be turned over to the Chancery Court for a judicial review. A tenured teacher who loses a position due to cutbacks is placed on a preferred waiting list for applicable job vacancies.
New teachers receive a five-year probationary period, during which they have no employment guarantee and may be terminated without cause. After the probationary period, teachers becomes eligible for tenure, assuming annual evaluations exceed expectations during the final two years of the probationary period.
All teachers receive annual evaluations based on several criteria. Student performance in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, a method of measuring student learning, makes up 35 percent of the evaluation criteria. Student performance in other tests is 15 percent of the criteria. In-class observations are the remaining 50 percent.
Dismissing Tenured Teachers
Dismissal of tenured teachers can only occur for five specific reasons: incompetence, neglect of duty, unprofessional conduct, insubordination and inefficiency. The tenure reform of Aprill 2011 redefined "inefficiency" to mean earning teacher evaluation scores below expectations.