Layoffs: Rhode Island

2017 Retaining Effective 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. The bar for this goal was raised in 2017.

Nearly meets

Analysis of Rhode Island's policies

Factors to Consider: Rhode Island, through an executive order from the Commissioner, ensures that teacher effectiveness and student need, rather than seniority, are factors in determining which teachers are laid off during a reduction in force. The policy requires that a collective bargaining agreement cannot prevent districts from "assigning staff based on a set of performance criteria and on student need rather than by strict seniority," which "may well have implications for personnel decisions [made] for layoff notices."

Citation

Recommendations for Rhode Island

Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as a factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force and ensure that seniority is not the only factor used to determine which teachers are laid off.
Although the intent of the executive order appears to be to make performance a factor in layoff decisions and to ensure that seniority is not the only factor, the state should clarify this language to ensure that effectiveness is the determinative factor in making reductions-in- force decisions.

State response to our analysis

Rhode Island recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.

Updated: December 2017

How we graded

9E: Layoffs 

  • Performance: The state should require that districts consider teacher effectiveness in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force and ensure that seniority is not the only factor used.

  • Performance

    The total goal score is earned based on the following:

    • Full credit: The state will earn full credit if teacher performance is the top criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • Three-quarters credit: The state will earn three-quarters of a point if performance is a required—but not the most influential—criterion in reduction-in-force decisions.
    • One-half credit: The state will earn one-half of a point if retention policies based solely on tenure or seniority are explicitly not allowed, but performance is not an explicitly required factor in reduction-in-force decisions.

    Research rationale

    "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.[1]

    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.


    [1] See National Council on Teacher Quality. (2011). Teacher layoffs: Rethinking 'last-hired, first-fired' policies. Retrieved from http://www.nctq.org/dmsView/Teacher_Layoffs_Rethinking_Last-Hired_First-Fired_Policies_NCTQ_Report; The New Teacher Project. (2011). The case against quality-blind teacher layoffs. Retrieved from http://tntp.org/assets/documents/TNTP_Case_Against_Quality_Blind_Layoffs_Feb2011F.pdf?files/TNTP_Case_Against_Quality_Blind_Layoffs_Feb2011F.pdf; Boyd, D., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). Teacher layoffs: An empirical illustration of seniority versus measures of effectiveness. Education, 6(3), 439-454. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001421-teacher-layoffs.pdf; Goldhaber, D., & Theobald, R. (2010). Assessing the determinants and implications of teacher layoffs (Working Paper 55). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/1001496-Assessing-Teacher-Layoffs.pdf; Sepe, C., & Roza, M. (2010). The disproportionate impact of seniority-based layoffs on poor, minority students. Center on Reinventing Public Education, University of Washington. Retrieved from http://crpe.org/publications/disproportionate-impact-seniority-based-layoffs-poor-minority-students