Retaining Effective 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. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.
Factors to Consider: Oregon determines which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force using a teacher's seniority and licensure status. In addition to considering licensure and seniority, a district can "determine competence and merit of teachers." Districts are permitted—but not required—to retain a teacher with less seniority rather than a more senior teacher if the less senior teacher is deemed to have "more competence or merit." Further, school districts cannot waive the right to consider "competence" in making layoff decisions during a reduction in force.
Oregon Revised Statute 342.934
Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Oregon 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 Oregon does not require that seniority be the sole factor in deciding who is laid off during a reduction in force, its policy is problematic in that it does not require that competence and merit are considered. The state should ensure that what matters most—a teacher's effectiveness at increasing student learning—is given due weight in determining which teachers are laid off.
Oregon recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
"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.