“Seniority experience is a plus. You cannot say that experience and seniority doesn’t matter,” said Soglin. “If you spend 25 years as a teacher, and you have to learn to teach reading four times and you change grade levels, if you’re actually evaluated correctly you might not be [graded] excellent one year. So our point is to put that kind of pressure on to say ‘if you’re not excellent, you’re vulnerable to RIF’ is just unacceptable.”
However, the difficulty in removing a tenured teacher with continuously poor performance was made easier.
“Historically, the tenured teacher dismissal process in Illinois has been very lengthy and very costly, so we streamlined that,” said Darren Reisberg, deputy superintendent and general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Education. He added that the bill defined the word “incompetency” to help stakeholders feel comfortable in bringing a tenure dismissal issue to a hearing.
“Tenure, the way we look at it, is access to due process and access to just causes,” said Soglin. “It isn’t lifetime access to a job.” Soglin said her organization was concerned that if it were made difficult to get tenure, then teachers would not be as comfortable questioning their district policies and acting as an advocate for students. “To have tenure be branded because no one is paying attention to what is going on in the school or the district doesn’t help any of us,” Soglin said.
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The bill changed the requirements for tenure from a four-year probationary period to a four-year probationary period with eligibility only if the teacher has received proficient or excellent ratings in two of the past three years and a proficient or excellent rating in the fourth year. Accelerated tenure is a possibility for teachers who receive three excellent ratings in their first three years.
While passage of the bill does give other states reason to believe in compromise, there are still many more trials ahead for Illinois in terms of implementation.
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