Jerry Pournelle has alerted me (by way of the Wall Street Journal) to the existence of this policy brief (released last month by The New Teacher Project), and I think it’s worth a look:
Given decades of research showing that the quality of education a child receives depends more on the quality of his or her teacher than any other school factor, one might assume that schools would do everything possible to protect their best teachers from being cut. Unfortunately, most layoff decisions will completely ignore a teacher’s performance.
In fact, in 14 states, it is illegal for schools to consider any factor other than a teacher’s length of service when making layoff decisions. The newest teachers always get cut first, even if they are “Teacher of the Year” award winners. Ignoring teacher performance in layoffs is a prime example of the “widget effect” –treating teachers like interchangeable parts.
Quality-blind layoff policies threaten to make this year’s layoffs catastrophic. Talented new teachers will lose their jobs while less effective teachers remain. More job losses will be necessary to meet budget reduction goals, because the least senior teachers are also the lowest-paid. And, as is all too common, the most disadvantaged students will be hit hardest, because they tend to have the newest teachers. These outcomes are intolerable.
Indeed they are.