Layoffs: Tennessee

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 Tennessee's policies

Factors to Consider: Tennessee ensures that seniority and tenure status are not the sole factors used by districts to determine which teachers are laid off during reductions in force. Whenever a reduction in force becomes necessary, school boards in Tennessee have the authority "to dismiss such teachers or nonlicensed employees based on their level of effectiveness determined by the evaluation" from the state's evaluation system.

Citation

Recommendations for Tennessee

Require that districts consider teacher effectiveness as the most important factor in determining which teachers are laid off during reductions in force.
Tennessee should strengthen its policy and ensure that teacher effectiveness is the determinative factor in layoff decisions.

State response to our analysis

Tennessee recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis. The state also questioned why it did not fully meet this goal.

Updated: December 2017

Last word

To fully meet this goal, states must ensure that performance is the top criterion in decisions pertaining to reductions in force. 

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