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: Pennsylvania recently adopted legislation that requires the consideration of teacher effectiveness—measured by a performance evaluation—to be the top criterion districts must use in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
The first teachers to be "suspended" are those who have received unsatisfactory ratings on their last two annual performance evaluations. The second teachers to be "suspended" are those who have received one unsatisfactory rating and one satisfactory rating on their last two evaluations. Those with two consecutive satisfactory ratings that are either "proficient" or a combination of one rating of "proficient" or "distinguished" and one rating of "needs improvement" are next. The last teachers to be suspended are those whose two most recent annual performance evaluations are consecutive ratings of "distinguished" or a combination of one rating of "proficient" and one rating of "distinguished." Seniority is only considered when there are more teachers who received the same overall performance rating than there are "suspensions."
HB 178 (2017)
As a result of Pennsylvania's strong reductions in force policies, no recommendations are provided.
Pennsylvania was helpful in providing NCTQ with the facts necessary for 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.