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: The District of Columbia does not maintain a state-level policy regarding layoffs.
However, the District of Columbia Public Schools ensures that multiple factors are considered when determining which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force, including: 1) significant relevant contributions, accomplishments or performance; 2) relevant supplemental professional experience; 3) office or school needs; and 4) length of service.
Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
The District of Columbia may continue to provide local school 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 the District does not require that local school districts consider seniority in making layoff decisions, it should codify a requirement that would prevent districts from making layoff decisions solely on this basis.
The District of Columbia indicated that it has no policy governing reductions in force for teachers and defers authority to the hiring local school district. "The new ESSA federal regulations has no mandate for [districts] to comply with this initiative, and thus state policy must allow them autonomy and flexibility in this area."
"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.