Is it time to scrap the "last in, first out" model for how K-12 teachers are laid off?

Earlier today on MPR: Minn. teachers weigh in on proposed tenure shakeup

A bill making its way through the Legislature would allow school administrators to consider a teacher’s performance in the classroom, instead of just seniority, when cutting jobs. The measure would eliminate the so-called "last in, first out" approach to layoffs. Although some teachers think it’s time to shake the system up, many are opposed to any change in the long-standing system of tenure, a form of job security for classroom veterans.

Recently on MPR:

Teacher seniority, NCLB top education issues in low-key legislative session

State Reps. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, seen here in a file photo, are key players in education issues in this year's legislative session. (MPR File Photo/Tom Weber)A state House committee will hear a proposal Tuesday that would change several rules regarding teacher seniority and layoffs.

GOP lawmakers are pushing the legislation, one of several education-related proposals they hope to pass this year.

Last in, first out?

As federal dollars expire, teachers could face a higher number of layoffs than in previous years. Should teacher performance trump seniority when choosing who gets laid off? Keri’s guests are Professor Diane Ravitch from New York University, Tom Weber of MPR News, Tim Melton of Students First and Tom Dooher of Education Minnesota.

7 thoughts on “Is it time to scrap the "last in, first out" model for how K-12 teachers are laid off?”

  1. My uninformed answer to the question: yes. The K-12 tenure system is one of the main pieces of the educational infrastructure that keeps the system heavily adult-focused rather than student-family focused.

    But I’m less bothered by it than I used to be because of the public education alternatives: charter schools and open enrollment.

    I do recognize that a change in the layoffs practice could make things ripe for abuse, eg, laying off more experienced, skilled teachers just to save money.

    1. My little-informed answer is “depends”. Griff, I’m not quite following how you conclude that tenure is the cause of “adult-focus rather than student-family focus”. Perhaps you could elaborate, or point me towards a previous comment where you’ve already done so? Anyway, my “depends” answer does revolve around the question of abuse. If someone could come up with a process that minimizes the potential for abuse, I’d be much more likely to be in favor.

  2. I don’t think seniority is being “scrapped.” I think it is being supplemented by evidence of effectiveness in teaching. And I think it’s a good idea.

    This commentary is a succinct description of the arguments for making this change:

    I would add a couple of provisos to this commentary.

    1. Principals should also undergo effectiveness evaluation, and those data should also be used when budget cutbacks come about. Sauce for the goose and all. Principals set a tone for a building. Where a building is functioning well (and we have some of those in Northfield), it never or almost never happens without an excellent leader.

    2. I think the worry union members articulate about highly paid teachers being especially vulnerable has some plausibility. I think this can be explicitly addressed in legislation.

    1. Kathie: Would you support making the employment of college professors contingent upon periodic performance reviews throughout a the course of a professor’s career, rather than on a single tenure review in the sixth year of employment?

  3. Strib editorial: Seniority-only policy should go; Gov. Dayton should help end ‘last in, first out’ for teachers.

    Minnesota, unfortunately, hasn’t done a particularly good job in making effective teaching a focus of policy. Last year, the National Council on Teacher Quality gave the state a flunking grade on dismissing bad teachers, in part because of the seniority-only law. And the state lost out on the first round of federal Race to the Top funds because of failing to address ineffective teaching, among other factors.

    To be sure, experience matters. The proposal doesn’t throw out seniority altogether — rather, the changes are limited to the role tenure plays in layoffs. And even there, teachers with the same effectiveness rating will be laid off in reverse order of seniority. But the plan rightly recognizes that the number of years on the job is not the only or best way to judge who should remain there.

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