Reductions in Force: Alabama

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy


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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Reductions in Force: Alabama results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Alabama's policies

In Alabama, the factors used by districts to determine which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force are decided at the district level and must be based on "objective criteria."


Recommendations for Alabama

Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Alabama can still leave districts flexibility in determining layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that classroom performance is considered.  

Ensure that seniority is not the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off.
Unlike some states, Alabama does not require that districts consider seniority; however, the state should do more to prevent districts from making decisions solely on this basis.  

State response to our analysis

Alabama recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state added that "as noted in response to Goals 5-B and 5-C, EDUCATE Alabama is a formative rather than a summative process. Employment decisions are made by local boards of education based on the recommendations of local superintendents of education. School system personnel are advised to use progressive discipline procedures when teachers' performance is less than acceptable and does not improve."

Last word

This issue in this goal is not whether districts use "progressive discipline procedures" with low-performing teachers but whether districts will consider performance in deciding which teachers to lay off in a reduction in force.   While still allowing local flexibility, the state should send a clear message that the "last in, first out" policies that predominate are not in the best interest of students.  

How we graded

LIFO policies put adult interests before student needs.  

Across the country, most districts utilize "last in, first out" policies in the event of teacher layoffs.  Most states leave these decisions to district discretion; some 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. 

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.  

Research rationale

See National Council on Teacher Quality, "Teacher Layoffs: Rethinking 'Last Hired, First-Fired' Policies." (2010); The New Teacher Project, The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Layoffs (2011); Boyd, Donald; Lankford, Hamilton; Loeb, Susanna; and Wyckoff, James, "Teacher Layoffs: An Empirical Illustration of Seniority v. Measures of Effectiveness" The Urban Institute, CALDER (2010);  Goldhaber, Dan and Theobold, Roddy, "Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs." Center for Education Data & Research, University of Washington-Bothell (2010); Sepe, Christina and Roza, Marguerite, "The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students." Center on Reinventing Public Education (2010).