NEW YORK — Federal Education Department guidelines allow schools to fire or suspend teachers who are “not performing or displaying appropriate levels of proficiency.”
But the rules don’t apply to private schools.
Schools can’t fire teachers who don’t pass standardized tests.
They can’t suspend them for the same reason.
Federal officials are proposing to change that.
If the rule is enacted, private schools would be able to fire anyone they want.
They could even take their teachers off the job.
There is one exception.
If a teacher has failed a standardized test and has been suspended more than once for a violation of that school’s policy, the school can’t dismiss the teacher, the education department said.
The policy is intended to allow teachers to improve their performance without worrying about losing their jobs.
It’s an issue for many private schools, where teachers are often not well-prepared to work in a fast-changing and highly competitive world, said Jennifer Riedl, director of the nonprofit organization Teachers and Teachers Education.
Some private schools have been accused of misusing their power, she said.
“They’re the ones that are putting the blame on the teachers.
They’re the one who are doing the firing,” Riedle said.
“There is no accountability in that.”
The Education Department issued a rule Tuesday requiring schools to take measures to protect students from bullying, but it’s not clear that the federal government is the right agency to decide whether teachers should be fired.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has long argued that schools should be free to make decisions on discipline.
In her order, the department said the federal law requiring school districts to protect student safety was designed to protect the right of schools to make their own rules and that federal law “does not give the federal Government the authority to decide what schools are or aren’t permitted to do.”
It said federal law doesn’t apply “to the conduct of public schools or the actions of the teachers who perform the duties of their employment.”
There are many factors that must be taken into account when deciding whether to fire a teacher, including the nature of the violation and the seriousness of the conduct, the rule said.
Schools can’t be sued if they’re not aware of the teacher’s disciplinary history.
Schools also can’t force the teacher to take a test or conduct a background check, the Education Department said.
But it said a school can make the decision to dismiss a teacher for failing to meet an educational requirement if the teacher has “a pattern of behavior that is disruptive, unprofessional, or inconsistent with the teacher being entrusted with a particular education program or educational program program requirement.”
Teachers can be fired for “unwillingness to adhere to the requirements of a particular program or instruction,” the rule added.
A spokesman for the Education Secretary said that the department’s policy was meant to help schools make informed decisions about whether to hire and retain teachers, but the department has not yet finalised a final rule.
Many states, including Louisiana, Indiana and Wisconsin, already have similar rules in place, the spokesman said.