Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Ed Bengtson

Committee Member

John Pijanowski

Second Committee Member

Kara Lasater


Education, Teacher dismissal, Teacher evaluation, Teacher incompetence


Research suggests that hiring and retaining high quality teachers is probably the most important school related factor in providing a quality education for students, as well as improving student achievement. Because of the importance of providing all students with highly capable and qualified teachers, this study explored characteristics of incompetent teachers and barriers to their dismissal to help school leaders better understand, and hopefully reverse, the negative impact caused by incompetent teachers. The three goals of this study were to develop a more complete understanding of: 1) characteristics that cause teachers to be identified as incompetent; 2) barriers to removing incompetent teachers and replacing them with quality educators; and 3) to determine effective practices for working with and dismissing incompetent teachers. Incidence rates, characteristics of incompetent teachers, barriers to the dismissal of incompetent teachers, and effective practices in overcoming barriers to dismissal were examined through the eyes of public school principals in the state of Missouri. Findings were broken down to determine how a principal's gender, level of experience, grade level and size of the school in which the principal serves, and location of the school affect how a principal views teacher incompetence. Findings indicate the most prominent characteristics to be ineffective instructional practices, lack of classroom management, poor relational skills. The most significant barriers to dismissal were reported to be time, laws protecting teachers, and potential litigation. Effective practices for working with or dismissing incompetent teachers included frequent observation and communication, consultation with key stakeholders, meticulous documentation, and the development of effective hiring practices. Results from this study may be used as a catalyst for conversations on changing policies related to teacher tenure. Schools may use results from this study to guide professional development for current administrators on the topic of working with incompetent teachers. Administrator preparation programs may use results to guide learning processes about incompetent teachers for future administrators.