Surveys Find Strong Teacher Support for “Quality-Based” Layoff Policies

“Quality-Blind” Rules Currently Used by Most Districts Could Force Schools Nationwide to Lay Off Top Teachers and Disadvantage High-Need Students New Policy Brief Proposes Fair, Transparent System That Would Protect Great Teachers and Reduce Impact on Students

NEW YORK, NY—Amid signs that the economy will force school districts across the country to lay off teachers in the coming months, The New Teacher Project (TNTP) today released a new policy brief showing strong teacher support for ending “quality-blind” layoff policies based strictly on seniority. The paper, “A Smarter Teacher Layoff System,” details an alternative approach to layoffs that would help schools retain their best teachers and reduce the impact on students when layoffs become unavoidable.

Collective bargaining agreements and state laws commonly require districts to conduct layoffs based exclusively on seniority, so that newer teachers are laid off before veteran teachers, regardless of how well they do their jobs. These quality-blind layoffs cause districts to lose effective teachers while retaining ineffective ones; exacerbate job losses by laying off only the most inexpensive employees; and disproportionately harm schools serving poor students, which tend to have the highest percentages of novice teachers.

The brief reflects surveys of more than 9,000 teachers in two large urban school districts. When asked whether factors other than length of service should be considered in layoff decisions, approximately 3 of 4 teachers in each district said “yes.” A majority of teachers at every experience level—including those with 30 or more years of experience—favored considering factors other than seniority. When asked what factors should be considered in layoff decisions, teachers favored those related to job performance, such as classroom management and teacher attendance, more than time served in the district.

“Layoffs are bad for everyone, but they are worse when they result in the unnecessary loss of great teachers,” said Timothy Daly, president of TNTP. “The current approach is outdated by decades. Surely we can do better. We’re proposing a roadmap for doing layoffs in a quality-based way that protects students and is likely to find greater support among teachers.”

TNTP proposes a quality-based layoff system that relies primarily on three factors that drew strong support in the surveys: teachers’ attendance, their overall performance rating on their regular evaluation, and their classroom management rating (if it is a component of their regular evaluation). The system includes some weight for teacher seniority, but less weight than is assigned to performance. Districts can make a quality-based layoff system transparent by creating a scorecard that assigns a certain number of points to each of these factors.

Many states and districts are already moving to adopt quality-based layoff systems. Arizona passed a law last year prohibiting seniority from being used in layoffs. The District of Columbia Public Schools recently used performance as a factor in layoffs, consistent with a law that allows multiple factors to be considered. Performance is also a factor in layoffs in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina and Montgomery County, Maryland, at least among junior teachers.

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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