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: Massachusetts determines which teachers are laid
off during a reduction in force using a teacher's tenure status.
School districts may not lay off teachers with "professional teacher
status" if there is a teacher "without such status" within the same
certification area who could be laid off instead. Effectiveness is taken into consideration between two teachers with like tenure status. Indicators used to determine performance include "overall ratings resulting from comprehensive evaluations... and the best interests of the
students in the school or district."
Massachusetts General Law Title XII, Chapter 71, Section 42
Require that districts prioritize teacher effectiveness in determining
which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Although Massachusetts uses teacher performance as a factor in layoff decisions, the state still allows the main emphasis to be on seniority and tenure status. Using performance as the tiebreaker does not send a clear message to districts that it is the most important consideration.
Massachusetts indicated that chronically underperforming or failing schools or districts are afforded additional flexibility with regard to reductions in force, such that, ultimately:
"[a] teacher with professional teacher status in a school declared underperforming or chronically underperforming may be dismissed for good cause; provided, however, that the teacher receives 5 days written notice of the decision to terminate which shall include without limitation an explanation of the reason why the commissioner/superintendent is not retaining the teacher in the school."
"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.