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.
Ohio requires that a teacher's tenure status is considered first during reductions in force. In addition, the state requires that preference will not be given "to any teacher based on seniority, except when making a decision between teachers who have comparable evaluations." The implication here is that first, probationary teachers are laid off according to their performance, and then tenured teachers are laid off according to their performance.
Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
While it seems that Ohio will be using teacher performance as a factor in layoff decisions, the state could make it clearer that this is the case. In addition, the state might want to reconsider its emphasis on tenure in determining who is laid off due to the exceptionally long (seven years) probationary status for teachers in Ohio. Putting a greater emphasis on tenure status rather than teacher performance in this particular situation might undermine the state's efforts to prohibit a "last hired, first fired" layoff policy.
Ohio 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.