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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching

The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Layoffs

Why Layoff Policies that Ignore Teacher Quality Need

February 24, 2011

Harmful layoff policies have real consequences for both students and teachers.

As school districts across the country grapple with massive budget cuts, thousands of great teachers could lose their jobs simply because they have not taught as long as others. That’s because 40 percent of the nation’s teachers (1.25 million) work in one of 14 states where it’s currently illegal for schools to consider job performance in making layoff decisions.

The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Layoffs summarizes recent research on the effects of quality-blind policies and explains why staffing decisions should be based on what teachers achieve with their students, not when they started teaching.

The consequences of these policies—sometimes called “last-in, first-out”—are severe, including lower student achievement as a result of more effective teachers leaving and low-performing ones staying. And seniority-based layoffs disproportionately hurt schools serving poor students because these schools tend to have the highest rates of teacher turnover and the largest concentrations of novice teachers.

To reverse the damage of quality-blind layoffs, we urge policymakers to introduce legislation and school districts to set policies that ensure that teacher performance carries the greatest weight in staffing decisions.