Back to Basics: Probationary Teacher Nonrenewal

As we pass the school year’s halfway point, school officials should begin considering whether to nonrenew the contracts of poorly performing probationary teachers. Failure to comply with statutory timelines and procedures may result in an unintended contract extension or a teacher acquiring tenure.

Probationary Period

Typically, a teacher must serve an initial 5-year probationary period and receive an “effective” or “highly effective” evaluation rating on the teacher’s three most recent performance evaluations to acquire tenure. This 5-year probationary period is reduced to 4 years if a teacher is rated “highly effective” on 3 consecutive annual year-end performance evaluations. If a teacher previously acquired tenure with another Michigan public school district, the probationary period is only 2 years, unless reduced in duration or waived entirely to allow immediate tenure.

School officials must accurately compute the probationary period and apply the correct timelines for nonrenewal. Different timelines apply depending on a teacher’s hire date or if a lengthy leave of absence or layoff interrupts the probationary period. We recommend that school officials create and monitor a chart that identifies each teacher’s hire date, status as a previously tenured teacher, annual performance evaluation ratings, and expected date for acquiring tenure.


The Michigan Supreme Court has established June 30 as the uniform date for the end of the school year for Tenure Act purposes. Thus, for most probationary teachers, a statement of nonrenewal from the board must be delivered to the teacher by June 15 of a school year. For a teacher hired after the start of a school year, the teacher’s hire date (known as the “anniversary date”) defines the end of the probationary period, which is measured in “full school years.”

For a probationary teacher who previously acquired tenure in another Michigan public school district and has a maximum two-year probationary period, the teacher must receive a nonrenewal notice at least 60 days before the end of the probationary period (i.e., May 1 or 60 days before the anniversary date). Although the administration may recommend nonrenewal to the board, the board must authorize the nonrenewal and the nonrenewal notice must come from the board. For all other probationary teachers, the teacher must receive the nonrenewal notice at least 15 days before the end of the school year (i.e., June 15 or 15 days before the anniversary date).

Administrators must allow sufficient time for the board to nonrenew a probationary teacher’s contract and to provide written notice to that teacher within these timelines. The common belief that a school board “grants” tenure to a probationary teacher is incorrect. Rather, a probationary teacher automatically acquires tenure by operation of law upon the successful completion of the probationary period, unless the board timely acts to nonrenew the probationary teacher’s contract.

Although nonrenewal is within the board’s discretion, school officials must comply with statutory procedures, timelines, and criteria to successfully nonrenew a probationary teacher’s employment. For example, administrators must ensure that: (1) probationary teachers are evaluated in compliance with Revised School Code Section 1249 and applicable board policy, (2) an individual development plan has been in place for each probationary teacher each year beginning at the start of the probationary period, (3) the probationary teacher received a mid-year review (this is only required for teachers in the first year of the probationary period or who received a minimally effective or ineffective rating in their most recent annual year-end evaluation), and (4) the probationary teacher has been provided with multiple classroom observations and ample opportunity to improve consistent with the Tenure Act. For Thrun Policy Service subscribers, Board Policy 4403 addresses evaluations and Board Policy 4409 addresses nonrenewal. Schools should review their policies to ensure they comply with Michigan law.

We recommend that school officials promptly prepare the monitoring chart described above and follow the applicable timelines and procedures required to properly make these important personnel decisions.