Reductions in Force: Massachusetts

Exiting Ineffective 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.

Nearly meets goal
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2013). Reductions in Force: Massachusetts results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from:

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.  Effective 2016, performance 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."


Recommendations for Massachusetts

Require that districts prioritize classroom performance in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force. 
While Massachusetts will be using 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 should be an important consideration.

State response to our analysis

Massachusetts recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. Massachusetts added that beginning in 2016 seniority will not be the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off, per the same legislation cited in NCTQ's analysis.

Research rationale

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.