AFT-NH President Doug Ley Testimony In Support of HB 1277- Renomination of Teachers

Share This

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you, members of the Education Committee.

For the record:  my name is Douglas Ley and I represent Cheshire District 9, encompassing the towns of Dublin, Harrisville, Jaffrey, and Roxbury.  I am also the current president of AFT-NH and it is my intention to participate in proceedings regarding HB1277. 

I appear before you in support of HB 1277, which restores the previous standard of three years of continuous teaching before a teacher is afforded the guarantees of prior notice and access to a hearing in case of termination.  This was the standard in NH until 2011 when the period was amended from three years to five years. 

Teachers invest a great deal of time, resources, and energy into earning a degree in education and  becoming certified.  I know, because I teach many students pursuing certification in Social Studies.  Once certified, these fledglings need to find a job and will then work hard to refine their craft through the all-important on-the-job experience.  Given their energy and devotion to craft and to students, it would seem only reasonable and fair to give a teacher who is not being recommended for continuance some reason why this is the case.  It is a small sign of respect for that individual.

The bill in front of us proposes dropping from five to three years the time in which a teacher can essentially be non-renewed without being told any reason, having no right to a hearing and thus absolutely no recourse.  Anecdotally, AFT-NH has not seen an increase in the number of such non-renewals since the statute was amended to set the bar at five instead of three years.  Further, we have seen evidence in our work that many districts really do not spend much time considering whether or not to keep novice teachers until they near the end of this 5-year trial period.  What does this mean?  Well, two possible answers come to mind.  First, adding the two years does not appear to have done anything more than keep teachers hanging in uncertainty for two more years.  It does not appear, at least in our experience, that districts use the extra two years to provide additional mentoring and support for teachers experiencing difficulties.  This then leads to the second potential impact—that teachers who are not likely to succeed in the profession are left in place two years longer than would be the case if we had the three-year rule reinstituted.  Isn’t three years more than enough time to identify problematic teachers, enough time for skilled administrators to work with such teachers to offer feedback and guidance?  Districts all have evaluation processes in place—would these not indicate pretty quickly those who need help, and would not three years be enough time to provide opportunities for improvement?

There appears to be no demonstrated value to a five-year threshold.  In contrast, the threat of job loss for five years will often stifle or discourage innovation by new teachers, who are often advised to lay low, keep your head down, avoid risks and focus instead on good evaluations.  The impact on morale, both individually and collectively, is not positive, and only further complicates the increasingly serious problems of teacher recruitment and retention here in NH.  As it is, certification cycles run three years, and the Dept. of Education considers a teacher an experienced educator after three years, yet we do not afford that teacher the courtesy of an explanation or appeal for two more years.  This does not make sense, and Districts would still have the authority to remove an inadequate teacher no matter how many years of experience, so long as the teacher after three years has the right to challenge the District’s findings in a hearing. 

In sum, neither I nor AFT-NH see any logical or sound pedagogical reason for a five year “trial” period for teachers.  They are professionals charged with carrying out the sacred duty of educating tomorrow’s citizenry.  Bearing that heavy responsibility, they deserve respect and the right to answer and to challenge when not recommended for rehire.  Three years is certainly enough time to identify, work with, and perhaps even non-renew those not deemed adequate to bear these heavy responsibilities.  It is on that basis, then, that AFT-NH and I support HB 1277.