Reductions in Force: Massachusetts

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Reductions in Force: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/MA-Reductions-in-Force-10

Analysis of Massachusetts's policies

In Massachusetts, the factors used to determine which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force consider 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.

Citation

Recommendations for Massachusetts

Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Massachusetts should give districts the flexibility to determine their own layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that classroom performance is considered.   

Ensure that seniority is not the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off.
While it is not unreasonable to lay off probationary teachers before those with tenure, doing this without also considering performance is in effect a proxy for seniority-based layoffs and risks sacrificing effective teachers while maintaining low performers. Further, because probationary teachers draw lower salaries, the state may in fact be mandating that districts dismiss a larger number of effective probationary teachers rather than a smaller group of ineffective tenured teachers to achieve the same budget reduction. 

Finally, the language in Massachusetts' law might be misinterpreted by districts to suggest that the state is encouraging seniority-based layoffs. The language directly following its reduction-in-force policy effectively permits "bumping," when a senior teachers displaces a more junior teachers from his or her teaching position.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts was helpful in providing NCTQ with facts that enhanced this analysis. The state asserted that "Massachusetts law does not require that seniority be a factor, other than in dividing the teacher pool into those with, and those without, [tenure]."   

How we graded

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.  

Research rationale

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).