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.
Michigan considers teacher effectiveness—measured by a performance evaluation—as the top criterion for districts to use in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force. The state articulates that "a teacher who has been rated as ineffective under the performance evaluation system is not given any preference that would result in that teacher being retained over a teacher who is evaluated as minimally effective, effective, or highly effective." A teacher's effectiveness is based on such factors as evidence of student growth, a teacher's demonstrated pedagogical skills, classroom management, attendance and disciplinary records, relevant accomplishments and contributions, and relevant special training. When these factors distinguishing two or more employees are equal, length of service may be used as a tie-breaker.
Michigan 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.