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.
In Nebraska, the factors used by districts to determine which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force consider a teacher's tenure status and are decided at the district level. 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."
Nebraska Statute 79-846
Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Nebraska can still leave districts flexibility in determining layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that classroom performance is considered.
Ensure that tenure 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 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.
Nebraska 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.