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, teacher performance—measured by a
performance evaluation— is considered as the top criterion for districts 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 of the last two or three ratings, so long as the third rating was satisfactory or proficient.
The policy states: "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 in 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.
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.
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.
Reductions in Force: Supporting Research
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); D. Boyd, H. Lankford, S. Loeb, and J. Wyckoff, "Teacher Layoffs: An Empirical Illustration of Seniority v. Measures of Effectiveness", Calder Institute, July 2010, Brief 12; D. Goldhaber and R. Theobald, "Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs." Calder Institute, Working Paper 55, December 2010; C. Sepe and M. Roza, "The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students." Center on Reinventing Public Education, May 2010.