Out of Control Policy Blog

California Needs Quality-Based Teacher Layoffs

In the Los Angeles Times, Timothy Daly and Arun Ramanathan make the case for quality-based layoffs:

Unfortunately, the only tool that California schools can use to make these decisions is a calendar. That's because of an outdated state law that prevents schools from considering anything other than how long a teacher has worked in the school system to decide who stays and who goes. Schools have no choice but to ignore teacher quality. Newer teachers are always laid off first, regardless of how well they do their jobs.

The result? Even top-performing teachers may be cut. Last year, "teacher of the year" award winners in Santa Barbara, San Diego and Los Angeles were among those who received layoff notices.

Forcing schools to fire some of their best teachers while keeping less effective teachers is just one of many perverse side effects of California's quality-blind layoffs law. Most notably, this approach also disproportionately harms schools that serve the poorest students, English-language learners and students of color, who are more likely to have newer teachers.

What's worse, evidence from other parts of the country suggests that teachers themselves do not support these rules. When the New Teacher Project recently asked 9,000 teachers in two large urban districts for their opinion, nearly 3 out of 4 said that factors other than seniority should be considered in layoff decisions. Even among teachers with 30 or more years of experience, a majority supported a more quality-based approach.

I made the case for quality-blind layoffs in California last week in California Pinkslip Mania 2010: Quality-Based Layoff Edition.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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