Layoffs: Indiana

Retaining Effective 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. This was reorganized in 2021.

Does not meet goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2021). Layoffs: Indiana results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

Analysis of Indiana's policies

Factors to Consider: Indiana considers a teacher's performance category as the top criterion for districts to use in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force. The cancellation of teachers' contracts due to a decrease in the number of teaching positions is to be "determined on the basis of performance rather than seniority." In addition, if teachers are placed in the same performance category, the following may be considered to determine which teachers are laid off: 1) years of experience; 2) attainment of additional content-area degrees or credit hours beyond the requirements for employment; 3) evaluation results; 4) instructional leadership roles; and 5) academic needs of students. However, Indiana no longer requires student growth to factor into a teacher's evaluation rating. Therefore, the state cannot ensure that effectiveness in the classroom is considered when it comes to reductions in force.

Additionally, in March 2015, a federal district court judge for the southern part of the state found the underlying statute, passed in 2011, unconstitutional as applied to tenured teachers, citing case law that required the retention of tenured teachers over nontenured teachers during reductions in force. It appears that only school corporations within the Southern District Court jurisdiction are subject to this decision. 


Recommendations for Indiana

Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Indiana 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 most influential factor.

State response to our analysis

Indiana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis, however this analysis was updated subsequent to the state's review.

Updated: March 2021

How we graded

9E: Layoffs 

  • Performance: The state should require that districts consider teacher effectiveness in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force and ensure that seniority is not the only factor used.

  • Performance

    The total goal score is earned based on the following:

    • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if teacher performance is the top criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if performance is a required—but not the most influential—criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if retention policies based solely on tenure or seniority are explicitly not allowed, but performance is not an explicitly required factor in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • One-quarter credit: The state will earn one-quarter of a point if it explicitly allows performance as a factor in reduction-in-force decisions, but that performance is not necessarily tied to student growth.

    Research rationale

    "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.[1]

    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.

    [1] See National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher layoffs: Rethinking 'last-hired, first-fired' policies. Retrieved from; The New Teacher Project. (2011). The case against quality-blind teacher layoffs. Retrieved from; Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). Teacher layoffs: An empirical illustration of seniority versus measures of effectiveness. Education, 6(3), 439-454. Retrieved from; Goldhaber, D., & Theobald, R. (2010). Assessing the determinants and implications of teacher layoffs (Working Paper 55). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from; Sepe, C., & Roza, M. (2010). The disproportionate impact of seniority-based layoffs on poor, minority students. Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington. Retrieved from