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.
In Illinois, new legislation considers teacher performance—measured by a performance evaluation—as the top criterion for districts to use in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Each teacher is categorized in one of four groups according to their evaluation ratings. Grouping 1 includes probationary teachers that have not received performance evaluation ratings; Grouping 2 includes teachers who have received "needs improvement" or "unsatisfactory" on either of their previous two ratings; Grouping 3 consists of teachers who have received "satisfactory" or "proficient" on both of their previous two ratings; Grouping 4 consists of teachers who have received two "excellent" ratings in either the last two or three ratings, so long as the third rating was "satisfactory" or "proficient."
The new legislation states that "among teachers qualified to hold a position, teachers must be dismissed in the order of their Groupings, with teachers in Grouping 1 dismissed first and teachers in Grouping 4 dismissed last." If teachers within Groupings 2, 3 or 4 have the same performance rating, the teacher with the least seniority is dismissed first, unless an alternative method is established by the district.
However, this policy applies only to school districts with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants. For Chicago, the district with more than 500,000 inhabitants, the state's code requires that teachers' qualifications, certifications, experience, performance ratings or evaluations, and any other factors relating to an employee's job performance, be taken into account in determining who is laid off during reductions in force.
105 ILCS 5/24-12, chapter 122; 105 ILCS 5/34‑18 SB0007
Consider whether groupings sufficiently prioritize classroom performance.
Illinois has developed sound policy for incorporating classroom performance into reduction-in-force decisions. To achieve its overall goals in districts with fewer than 500,000 inhabitants, the state may want to consider further dividing Grouping 2. Laying off teachers with a single needs-improvement rating before teachers with more seniority, but perhaps with multiple unsatisfactory ratings, may run counter to the state's intentions.
Illinois recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
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).