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.
Factors to Consider: Arkansas requires its districts to have a written policy on reductions in force that is based on "objective criteria."
Arkansas Code 6-17-2407
Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Arkansas may continue to provide districts flexibility in determining layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that teacher effectiveness is the determinative factor. Further, although Arkansas does not require that districts consider seniority in making layoff decisions, it should codify a requirement that would prevent districts from making layoff decisions solely on this basis.
Arkansas was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state added that the legislative intent of its Teacher Excellence and Support System is to be used as a means of making employment decisions, and included the following statutory language:
"It is the intent of the General Assembly to:
(1) Provide a program affording public school districts and public charter schools a transparent and consistent teacher evaluation system that ensures effective teaching and promotes professional learning;
(2) Provide an evaluation, feedback, and support system that will encourage teachers to improve their knowledge and instructional skills in order to improve student learning;
(3) Provide a basis for making teacher employment decisions;
(4) Provide an integrated system that links evaluation procedures with curricular standards, professional development activities, targeted support, and human capital decisions;
(5) Encourage highly effective teachers to undertake challenging assignments;
(6) Support teachers' roles in improving students' educational achievements;
(7) Inform policymakers regarding the benefits of a consistent evaluation and support system in regard to improving student achievement across the state; and
(8) Increase the awareness of parents and guardians of public school students concerning the effectiveness of public school teachers."
"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.
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.