McCain takes Florida

Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., (center) speaks to reporters as his wife, Cindy McCain, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist watch Tuesday during a visit to a polling station in St. Petersburg as Florida's Republican primary unfolded.

WASHINGTON — States are not doing what it takes to keep good teachers and remove bad ones, a national study found.

Only Iowa and New Mexico require any evidence that public school teachers are effective before granting them tenure, according to the review released Thursday by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

"States can help districts do much more to ensure that the right teachers stay and the right teachers leave," said Kate Walsh, president of the Washington-based nonpartisan group.

Hiring and firing teachers is done locally in more than 14,000 school districts nationwide. But state law governs virtually every aspect of teaching, including how and when teachers obtain tenure, which protects teachers from being fired.

Tenure is not a job guarantee. But it is a safeguard, preventing teachers from being fired without cause or due process.

Nearly every state lets public school teachers earn tenure in three years or less, the group said. In all but Iowa and New Mexico, tenure is virtually automatic, the study said.

States were given letter grades in the study, earning a D-plus on average. The group gave its highest overall mark, a B-minus, to South Carolina, saying the state does better than any other at allowing ineffective teachers to be fired.

South Carolina requires two annual evaluations of new teachers. Teachers there who get bad reviews are placed on a plan for improvement. Only teachers on probation, not tenured teachers, can be dismissed if they don't improve.

The rest of the states earned C's or worse. Five — Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont — earned F's, as did the District of Columbia.

In all, only 13 states say teachers who get multiple bad reviews can be fired. Only 26 put teachers on an improvement plan after one bad review.