Reductions in Force: Wisconsin

2011 Exiting Ineffective Teachers Policy

Goal

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.

Does not meet
Suggested Citation:
National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Reductions in Force: Wisconsin results. State Teacher Policy Database. [Data set].
Retrieved from: https://www.nctq.org/yearbook/state/WI-Reductions-in-Force-10

Analysis of Wisconsin's policies

In Wisconsin, seniority is the sole factor used to determine which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force. Teachers are laid off "only in the inverse order of the appointment of such teachers." This policy applies to school districts located in counties with populations of 500,000 or more, and it appears that this policy only applies to teachers hired before 1995. It is unclear that the state has policy related to layoffs for its school districts located in smaller counties or for its teachers hired after 1995.

Citation

Recommendations for Wisconsin

Require that districts consider classroom performance as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Wisconsin should give districts the flexibility to determine their own layoff policies, but it should do so within a framework that ensures that classroom performance is considered.   

Ensure that seniority is not the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off.
Although it may be useful to consider seniority among other criteria, Wisconsin's current policy puts adult interests before student needs.  

State response to our analysis

Wisconsin recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also noted that the State Superintendent convened a Design Team on Educator Effectiveness in 2010, which is charged with developing an evaluation framework that supports a full range of human resource decisions.

How we graded

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.  

Research rationale

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); Boyd, Donald; Lankford, Hamilton; Loeb, Susanna; and Wyckoff, James, "Teacher Layoffs: An Empirical Illustration of Seniority v. Measures of Effectiveness" The Urban Institute, CALDER (2010);  Goldhaber, Dan and Theobold, Roddy, "Assessing the Determinants and Implications of Teacher Layoffs." Center for Education Data & Research, University of Washington-Bothell (2010); Sepe, Christina and Roza, Marguerite, "The Disproportionate Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Poor, Minority Students." Center on Reinventing Public Education (2010).