Rethinking Layoff Policy to Protect Teacher Diversity

We partnered with Educators for Excellence to study the impact that seniority-based layoffs could have on teachers of color and are proud to release our findings and actionable recommendations in So All Students Thrive: Rethinking Layoff Policy to Protect Teacher Diversity.

In the report, we find that nationally, teachers of color are nearly 50 percent more likely to be in their first two years of teaching than are white teachers. In some states, like Massachusetts and New York, the likelihood is more than double.

While this is great news about a diversifying workforce, it also means that teachers of color are at greater risk of being laid off in jurisdictions that still rely primarily on seniority to make these decisions. Our 50-state scan revealed that more than half of states either require or permit districts to use seniority as the primary factor when making layoff decisions. Fortunately, we identified several states and districts across the country that are pioneering a range of alternative criteria that can be used in place of, or in addition to, seniority. We recommend that all states and districts evaluate and adjust their layoff policies to protect the diversity of their teacher workforce in service of their students.

At TNTP, we believe growing the educator workforce is a key lever for unlocking economic and social mobility, and that we must do so in a way that promotes equitable opportunities for all students. Although schools nationwide serve 53 percent students of color, the educator workforce remains 80 percent white. A growing body of research* shows that having diverse teachers is beneficial for all students, resulting in improved academic performance, greater cultural awareness, and better social-emotional well-being. And for students of color, the effects were even more significant: having a same-race teacher meant they were more likely to be referred to gifted and talented programs, complete high school and go to college, and less likely to be suspended.

This is one of the reasons we are so focused on educator diversity–it has been a key element of our new teacher and leader training, and we’ve written about it on numerous occasions. Last year, we launched the One Million Teachers of Color Campaign alongside seven other organizations in a coalition to advance educator diversity through scaling best practices, shaping a national narrative around the importance of educator diversity, and advancing policy change.

While we are encouraged to see states and districts begin to heed the call for greater diversity – we estimate they’ve invested almost $100 million since 2010 to recruit new teachers of color – we also know that, as the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson put it, “It doesn’t matter if you recruit more; if you’re still losing teachers of color, you’re pouring water into a bucket that has a hole in it.”

That is why we are concerned about layoffs that could be coming in the years ahead as districts face increasing financial challenges due to declining student enrollment, the expiration of federal relief funds, and a potential recession.

We encourage you to visit to download the report, explore the advocacy campaign Educators for Excellence is kicking off to support policy change, and learn more about a state and district where local advocacy successfully brought about changes to layoff policies.


*For a summary of recent research, see Bristol, Travis J., Javier Martin Fernandez. (2019). The Added Value of Latinx and Black Teachers for Latinx and Black Students: Implications for the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. (EdWorkingPaper: 19-93). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:; Carner-Thomas, D. (2018). Diversifying the teaching profession: How to recruit and retain teachers of color. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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