The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Lay-Offs

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:

The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Lay-Offs

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.

2 thoughts on “The Case Against Quality-Blind Teacher Lay-Offs

  1. I would be a lot more interested in what kind of logical case could theoretically be made FOR quality-blind layoffs. The union has to be making SOME kind of case that is convincing to…SOMEONE or this head-slappingly obvious logical argument would have won the day long ago. How did we get to the point where it's a shocking insight that…um…firing the bad teachers is better than firing the young ones.


  2. There is a belief floating around out there that years of service translates into teacher quality. In reality, though, the evidence shows nothing of the sort. While there does seem to be an increase in quality over the first few years, after that, time served doesn't seem to matter. I can certainly believe that. I've had my share of veteran public school teachers who were simply going through the motions.

    But who cares about the evidence in the end? The teachers unions don't really have to make a logical case because they're filthy rich. The NEA and the AFT are big political spenders, and money often trumps logic.


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