2017 Retaining Effective Teachers Policy

2017 Goals for Layoffs

The state should require that its school districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off when a reduction in force is necessary. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Best practices

Colorado, Georgia, and Louisiana all require teacher effectiveness in the classroom to be the most important criterion in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force. In Colorado, other factors such as nonprobationary status and experience may only be considered after a teacher's effectiveness—as measured by performance evaluations—is taken into account. Districts in Georgia must use a teacher's effectiveness as the primary factor when determining reductions in force, and Georgia districts may not adopt any policies allowing seniority to be the primary factor in layoff decisions. Louisiana requires all reduction-in-force decisions to be based "solely upon demand, performance, and effectiveness," as determined by the state's performance evaluation system. The least effective teachers are dismissed first, followed by each proceeding effectiveness rating, until the reduction in force is complete. Districts in Louisiana are not allowed to use seniority or tenure as the primary criterion when making layoff decisions.

Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2017). Layoffs national results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:
Best practice 3


Meets goal 7


Nearly meets goal 9


Meets goal in part 4


Meets a small part of goal 1


Does not meet goal 27


Do states require teacher performance to be considered when making layoff decisions?

Figure details

Yes. State requires performance to be the determinative factor.: CO, GA, IL, IN, LA, MI, NV, PA, TX, UT

Partially. State requires performance to be considered, but not as the determinative factor.: FL, MA, ME, MO, OH, OK, RI, TN, VA, WA

No. State does not require performance to be considered: AK, AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, ID, KS, KY, MD, MN, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, SC, SD, VT, WI, WV, WY

Do states require teacher seniority to be considered when making layoff decisions?

Figure details

No. State does not permit seniority to be considered: CO, GA, IL, IN, LA, MI, NV, TX, UT

Partially. State permits seniority to be considered among other factors.: AZ, FL, ID, MA, ME, MO, NH, OH, OK, PA, RI, TN, VA, WA

Yes. State requires that seniority is the sole factor: CA, HI, KY, MN, NJ, NY, OR, WI, WV

Districts have discretion regarding the inclusion of seniority in layoff decisions.: AK, AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, IA, KS, MD, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, SC, SD, VT, WY

How we graded

9E: Layoffs 

  • Performance: The state should require that districts consider teacher effectiveness in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force and ensure that seniority is not the only factor used.

  • Performance

    The total goal score is earned based on the following:

    • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if teacher performance is the top criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if performance is a required—but not the most influential—criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if retention policies based solely on tenure or seniority are explicitly not allowed, but performance is not an explicitly required factor in reduction-in-force decisions.

    Research rationale

    "Last In, First Out (LIFO)" policies put adult interests before student needs, yet most districts across the country still use these policies in the event of teacher layoffs. While most states leave these decisions to district discretion, other states require layoffs to be based on seniority. Such policies fail to give due weight to a teacher's classroom performance and risk sacrificing effective teachers while maintaining low performers.[1]

    Policies that prioritize seniority in layoff decisions can also cause significant upheaval in schools and school districts. As teachers who are newer to the classroom traditionally draw lower salaries, a seniority-based layoff policy is likely to require that districts lay off a larger number of probationary teachers rather than a smaller group of ineffective teachers to achieve the same budget reduction.

    States can leave districts flexibility in determining layoff policies, but they should do so while also ensuring that classroom performance is considered. Further, if performance is prioritized, states need not prohibit the use of seniority as an additional criterion in determining who is laid off.

    [1] See National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher layoffs: Rethinking 'last-hired, first-fired' policies. Retrieved from; The New Teacher Project. (2011). The case against quality-blind teacher layoffs. Retrieved from; Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). Teacher layoffs: An empirical illustration of seniority versus measures of effectiveness. Education, 6(3), 439-454. Retrieved from; Goldhaber, D., & Theobald, R. (2010). Assessing the determinants and implications of teacher layoffs (Working Paper 55). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from; Sepe, C., & Roza, M. (2010). The disproportionate impact of seniority-based layoffs on poor, minority students. Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington. Retrieved from