Alternatives to seniority-based layoffs

In the discussion regarding direct placement of teachers, it is sometimes perceived that this system is the standard course of events — that our nation’s public school systems all have a similar process.  A report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) finds that there are several practicing alternatives to how individual school districts approach this decision:

The report … covers 100 districts nationwide, 75 of which reward seniority with job security. But most states don’t mandate seniority-based layoffs; they leave the decision up to districts. Twelve districts in the TR3 database use teacher-performance criteria, with Jackson, Mississippi, in particular, basing 60 percent of its decision on individual performance, 20 percent each on seniority and certification. In Davis, Utah, teachers who performed unsatisfactorily on their latest evaluations shoot to top of the layoff list.

The report states (or understates) “The factory model approach of last-hired, first-fired is unusual among white collar professions” and goes on to note the wide impact on students from the seniority-based layoff process.  It further points out that two of the sacred cows of the teaching profession — preserving jobs and increased teacher diversity — are negatively impacted by this process.

Instead of laying off 875,000 teachers to accommodate a 10 percent reduction in school budgets nationwide, districts would only have to lay off roughly 612,000 teachers — saving more than 250,000 jobs — by allowing criteria other than seniority to be factored into decisions about reductions in force.

In addition, seniority-based layoffs may cut into hard-won diversity in the teacher corps. For example, in California, school districts have managed to increase the number of minority teachers by 14,000 across the state since 2001, but layoffs of these more junior teachers under a last-hired, first-fired policy could erase much of this progress.

Layoffs are never easy, but faced with their inevitability, doing them as well as possible is deeply important.  This report is worth a read.

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