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: Nebraska determines which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force using a teacher's tenure status. School districts may only lay off tenured teachers after notice has been given to nontenured teachers. In addition, performance is permitted—but not required—to be used as a factor. If "employee evaluation" is used, then "specific criteria such as frequency of evaluation, evaluation forms, and number and length of classroom observations shall be included as part of the reduction in force policy."
Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Nebraska 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 determinative factor. Further, although it is not unreasonable for Nebraska to lay off probationary teachers before those with tenure, the state should also consider performance so that it does not sacrifice effective teachers while maintaining low performers.
Nebraska recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis and referenced the comments it made to this goal in 2015.
"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.