Important Dates under Senate Bill 7 and the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 (PERA)
The Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 (PERA) and the Education Reform Act (commonly known as Senate Bill 7) made numerous changes to how teachers are hired, evaluated, laid off and terminated. The legislation also changes the way principals are to be evaluated. Further, the legislation requires data-based measurement of student growth. Some of those changes were effective immediately, but for many school districts, some of the changes will not be implemented until September 1, 2016. The following is a brief overview of what is coming and important dates to remember.
Dismissal of Teachers for Cause. New rules govern the dismissal of tenured teachers for cause. The most significant change is that a board of education can now review a hearing officer’s recommendation regarding teacher dismissal and make the final decision. A board can reject the hearing officer’s factual findings or modify or supplement the findings of fact if, in its opinion, the findings of fact are against the manifest weight of the evidence. The board’s final decision is subject to review by the courts.
Filling New or Vacant Teacher Positions. The selection of a candidate for a new or vacant teaching position (not a recalled position) must be based upon the consideration of statutory factors that include certifications, qualifications, merit and ability (including available performance evaluations), and relevant experience. Length of continuing service with the school district must not be considered as a hiring factor, unless all other factors are equal.
Evaluations of Certified Staff. Superintendent, principal and teacher evaluations are prohibited from disclosure, except as expressly permitted by PERA. (The Personnel Record Review Act already prohibits the disclosure of performance evaluations under the Freedom of Information Act, but PERA reverses Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board decisions allowing union access to evaluations to support grievance claims.)
Changes to RIF Sequence. Except for school districts with unexpired collective bargaining agreements that address RIF sequences and were entered into on or before January 1, 2011, new rules apply to the honorable discharge and recall of teachers. See the companion article in this issue of the School Law Advisor.
Impasse/Strike Procedures. New rules govern a union’s ability to move from impasse to strike in the bargaining process. An impasse cannot be declared until 15 days have passed in the mediation process. When an impasse is declared, both sides must submit a final offer within seven days. Seven days after receiving the final offers, the mediator shall make these final offers public. A strike cannot occur until 14 days after the offers have been made public.
Date Specific Deadlines
March 1, 2011: Deadline for Principal Evaluation. Principals required to be evaluated in a given year are to be evaluated no later than March 1 of that year. Previously, principal evaluations were to be accomplished by February 1.
December 1, 2011: Formation of Joint Committee. A joint committee with an equal number of school district and union representatives must be established and hold its first meeting by this deadline to address reduction in force (RIF) issues. See the companion article in this issue of the School Law Advisor regarding RIFs and joint committees.
June 12, 2012: Board Member Training. By this date, or during the first year of a new board member’s first term, every voting board member must have completed a minimum of 4 hours of training, covering topics in education and labor law, financial oversight and accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities of a school board member. Names of the board members who have successfully completed the training are to be posted on the school district’s internet site.
July 1, 2012: Teacher Dismissal/ Hearing Officer Selection. After this date, a tenured teacher facing dismissal for cause must be notified that he or she has a choice to either mutually select the hearing officer, and split the hearing officer’s cost with the school district, or have the school district select the hearing officer, in which case the school district pays the hearing officer’s full cost.
September 1, 2012: Evaluator Training. Any evaluator undertaking an evaluation after this date must have successfully completed a pre-qualification program approved by ISBE. The program must involve rigorous training and an independent observer’s determina-tion that the evaluator’s ratings properly align to the requirements established by ISBE.
September 1, 2012: Four-Tiered Performance Rating System for Teachers. New evaluation plans for teachers, with the new four-tiered rating system required by PERA, must be in place by this date. There must also be new evaluation plans for principals, using the new rating system. Principal evaluation plans must provide for the use of data and indicators on student growth as a significant factor in rating performance.
June 30, 2013: Teacher RIFs/ Collective Bargaining Agreements. If they have not already expired, any collective bargaining agreements that were entered into on or before January 1, 2011, and whose provisions regarding reduction in force conflict with PERA, no longer control RIFs. The RIF and teacher recall sequence is now controlled by legislation.
September 1, 2015: PERA Implementation Date/Lower 20%. The “implementation date” for all remaining PERA requirements for those schools whose performance falls in the lower 20th percentile. After the implementation date, new rules apply regarding the acquisition of teacher tenure; teacher performance is a factor, where length of time required to acquire tenure is tied to evaluations. Also, student growth must be a significant factor in rating teacher performance. Alternate teacher dismissal process based on PERA evaluations becomes available.
September 1, 2016: PERA Implementation Date/All Districts. The “implementation date” for all remaining PERA requirements for those schools whose performance falls above the 20th percentile. These higher-performing school districts become subject to the same rules that became applicable to lower-performing districts the prior year.