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Seniority-only Based Layoffs Hurt Students

Original post made by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows, on Mar 8, 2010

At the end of this PDF link is a suggestion for an alternative system that can be implemented based upon the results of the teacher survey.

"A Smarter Teacher Layoff System: How Quality-Based Layoffs Can Help Schools Keep Great Teachers in Tough Economic Times

March 2010

Amid signs that the economy will force school districts across the country to lay off teachers in the coming months, this policy brief shows strong teacher support for ending “quality-blind” layoff policies based strictly on seniority. It details an alternative approach to layoffs that would help schools retain their best teachers and reduce the impact on students when layoffs become unavoidable, while still valuing seniority appropriately. The proposed "quality-based" layoff system reflects the views of more than 9,000 teachers surveyed in two large urban districts."

Web Link

Some excerpts with my highlights:

"Though quality-blind layoff rules represent a well-intentioned attempt to solve a difficult problem fairly, they amount to poor policy-making on several levels. A relic of a factory-model approach to labor management relations that treats teachers like widgets, they demean teachers by ignoring substantial differences in performance. In some districts, these rules have forced schools to give layoff notices to “teacher of the year” award winners and nominees;"

"Most importantly, though, QUALITY-BLIND LAYOFFS HURT STUDENTS BY DEPRIVING THEM OF EXCELLENT TEACHERS WHO ARE FORCES TO LEAVE simply because they have not taught as long as others. Compounding the problem is the fact that layoffs put a heavier burden on the remaining teachers, who face larger classes and more out-of-classroom responsibilities. In these challenging circumstances, it is especially critical that the teachers who remain be highly effective. IF SUCH TEACHERS ARE NOT PROTECTED DURING LAYOFFS, THEIR JOBS MAY INSTEAD FALL TO TEACHERS WHO CANNOT BE EFFECTIVE UNDER MORE DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES—or who were not as effective even before the layoffs occurred."

"Districts and unions must act now to replace quality-blind layoff rules with fair, transparent POLICIES THAT PUT THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS FIRST and allow schools to retain their best teachers in times of upheaval. The best solution is to use data from credible teacher evaluations, which will take time for most districts to develop. But districts cannot afford to wait, and they do not have to wait. They can implement quality-based layoff rules using information that is already available to make significant progress toward their goal of retaining their best teachers during layoffs."

Comments (16)

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Other excerpts:

"Teachers Support a Smarter Layoff System
The first step in designing a smarter layoff system is to solicit input from those it will affect most directly: teachers themselves. Last spring, The New Teacher Project did just that by surveying more than 9,000 teachers in two large urban districts about layoff policies.

Teachers in these two districts overwhelmingly rejected quality-blind layoff rules.

Furthermore, the survey found strong support for a quality-based approach to layoffs. When asked what factors should be considered in layoff decisions, teachers tended to favor factors that relate to their effectiveness and performance more than time served in the district.

For example, on average, 60 percent of the teachers who want additional factors considered said classroom management should be part of layoff decisions—making it the most popular choice—compared to 42 percent who said district seniority should be a factor.7 “Instructional performance based upon evaluation rating” was also a popular factor among teachers, a finding that contradicts conventional wisdom (see Figure 2). And many teachers in both districts believe layoff decisions should consider teacher attendance, a factor that research has shown has a significant impact on student performance."

One teacher summed up her frustration with quality-blind layoff policies in this way:
“The layoff [process] that will take place this April will not take into account how well I was evaluated or the intense amount of effort I put into my job. Nor does it consider the level of success the students in my classroom have achieved. It does not take into account the relationships I have built with the students, parents, and staff in my school community. It does, however, seem to believe my job is expendable because I have only taught for three years.”

Posted by Speak up
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Again, it's back to the union dominance and control of our education. Unions protect bad teachers....NOT our kids. That's because you and the GOOD teachers allow it ! When YOU want it changed, that's when it will changed !
Those millions and millions of federal $$$ that CA did NOT get last week, were partly because CA has not yet changed the process for firing BAD teachers Right now it is nearly impossible. The 'education union protectionists' cover with the lie that it can be done. No principal has the guts to fight the battle that's required to fire a single teacher...SO OUR KIDS LOSE !! Your long as you allow it ! Just play roulette that your kid lucks out by getting a good teacher....instead of that BAD one that you let stay on to ruin a group of UNlucky kids. Sad.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 8, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Everyone MUST fight the corrupt unions...union members and tax payers. Our enemy does not come from the middle east, our enemy come from within.

Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 8, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I understand your frustration with UNIONS but your complaint is simply not enough to convince they are not helpful to teachers.

thank you very JONA, go clean your room!

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 8, 2010 at 8:13 pm

"The Union" is too easy of a blanket term for these conversations. In reality the union is compromised of a number of individuals who have very different views on what education is and what it could become. Teachers are a member of unions by default, not because they are beacons of excellence. That being said, I would like to add some new teacher perspective as this is my third year teaching and my second in PUSD. Please keep in mind that bias is prevalent here as I am on the chopping block.

Prior to coming to PUSD I worked in an urban school district and when I was lucky enough to have an offer from PUSD it was hard to turn down. I thought I was hired based on my performance, my lessons, my curriculum, my collaboration; in essence, I believed I was hired based on what I could bring to the table. I have had amazing success and wonderful interactions with parents and students for two years in PUSD. The PUSD community made me realize how truly outstanding our schools are in comparison with what I initially experienced.

Sadly I was confronted with an opposite experience during the layoffs that are beginning for the upcoming school year. My seniority (or lack thereof) determined almost everything. With so many new teachers in similar positions the school district and the union had to develop a method to sort us for layoffs. NONE of the criteria for sorting teachers was based upon evaluations of our classroom performance. The criteria was so basic it is insulting. Did you major in the field you teach? Have you taught for more than 6 years (as if there is no difference between a five year veteran and a first year teacher)? Are you credentialed? As someone who believed his/her performance could only be measured in the classroom I felt disillusioned. I was hired based on a holistic package and I am being let go based on a numbers game that treats me the same as any other person who has gone through the basic teacher credentialing steps.

As a final note, the most often neglected group in these conversations are the amazing veteran teachers that are still doing an amazing job. I only became a good teacher by working collaboratively with those whose wisdom and experience far exceed my own.


Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Teacher wrote: "Teachers are a member of unions by default"

Not exactly. You don't have to sign the membership forms. More information at California Teacher Empowerment Network website: Web Link

Posted by Agree
a resident of Danbury Park
on Mar 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Teacher, thank you for writing. You illustrate the problems of schools in California. Quality in teachers is not how teachers are kept; it is seniority.

I have a different experience with the teachers union however. I do not see them having views on what education is and what it can become. I see them trying to keep the most high-paying jobs, which today is through seniority. To be a decision maker in a union, you need to have many years in the district. By definition, those in union leadership roles have years of seniority and will ensure their jobs are protected. Perhaps if the rule was that the union leadership has to be a mix of 50% "seasoned" members, and 50% "newer" members, there might be more emphasis on better ways to keep good teachers.

I do agree with you that we do have some great veteran teachers. I don't think people are saying that the veteran teachers as a group are not performing. However, there are veteran teachers who are only here because of seniority. I would hope at some time the teachers with seniority would see that those who are not performing are giving veteran teachers as a group a bad name, and then find a better way to judge performance on quality and not seniority.

Posted by dear stacy
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment and for being off topic]

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I've never made any pretense to know all nor claim to have "real solutions". I'm here to discuss, explore, and get people to look at their own thinking process. I post about what I find interesting. What do you care if someone looks into these issues?

You say I make assumptions yet you offer no counter-argument pointing out those assumptions other than to attack my persona.

Since you apparently have a better perspective, tell all our readers out there how moving away from seniority-only based layoffs has no application in this community.

Posted by Seniority does hurt students
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Hiring and laying off should be done exclusively on merit, qualifications, performance.

I know of teachers who are well positioned here in PUSD, get involved in being chairs of departments in high school, or the teachers union and they are awful teachers. They are political because that is the only way they know how to keep their job: by seniority and union nonsense.

Start laying off based on peformance, please. We are losing many excellent teachers because of the seniority system. The ones who lose are the students.

I know of a teacher who is super bad and everyone hates and that teacher proudly announced in class that if the class she teaches now gets cancelled no problem for her, she can just go teach block or something. Yes, that is a problem, for someone who is bad to displace an excellent eacher.

Posted by Best
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm

BEST, not most senior should be the ONLY consideration for our students ! Logic & merit should prevail...except the teacher's UNION makes the rules....parents, taxpayers & students be damned.
What a concept !! Please explain WHY that is ALLOWED to continue !!
You are all accepting weakness, injustice, defeat....when will you take charge and not be willing victims of the public unions.

Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm

I agree with BEST. It's clear that everyone can agree which are the best teachers and which are the worst, making layoff decisions super easy!

Or is that too intelligent a plan for you liberals out there?

Posted by Rat Turd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Ha ha ha! this is not the real Rat Turd but an imposter. Everyone wants to be a Turd but only one real one. I am not a liberal hater either nor more than I hate conservatives. Do admire common sense though.

Posted by Teacher in other district
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 14, 2010 at 8:56 pm

What does make the best teachers?

For those of you who think the only good teachers are new teachers, I hope your boss doesn’t use that principle or no one over 40 would be employed. Why is it experience in the “real world” has value, but an experienced teacher is to be tossed out?

Remember that in California, teaching requires a minimum of a 4-year degree, an additional year of training and student teaching, and a 2-year training program within the first 5 years on the job (in addition to the responsibilities of everyday teaching).

I work hard at my job. I think people in other professions work hard, too. I just wish you treated teachers with the some respect.

Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 14, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Teacher in other district,

Have you looked at the report by The New Teacher Project? (PDF linked above in my original post) How would you evaluate teachers?

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 15, 2010 at 6:50 am

Is there a safe way to begin a conversation directly with teachers about change? There are few ways to engage teachers to speak outside the roll of union membership. A conversation without their input is lopsided.

At best, it seems there is a standoff--taxpayers cannot afford to be squeezed any more and from multiple directions (local, state, federal) and concessions are difficult. And in recent budgetary decisions, secondary is now pitted against elementary. No one is happy; there is no spirit of collaboration.

There has to be a better way--there's a whole lot of middle ground for reasonable solutions. Is there a way to vet ideas safely? Would teachers sign onto a web site conversation if they could do so anonymously (not here at the PW)? My sense is it's impossible for teachers to be part of a community based committee for this kind of discussion, but I'm happy to be wrong about that. The hope is to identify areas for potential future change without committing anyone to that change (couldn't anyway; it will take negotiation).

I would appreciate any teachers willing to respond to this broad idea.

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