Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about last in/first out policies for layoffs.  And you know, when you really stop to think about it and listen to the reasonable voices it does make a lot of sense for organizations that are fundamentally about quality teaching to make personnel decisions with no attention to how good someone is at teaching.  So please disregard all earlier posts on last in/first out.

18 Replies to “LIFO”

  1. Please explain. Have not seen earlier posts.
    “it does make make…decisions with NO attention to how good…”
    So LIFO should be the lay off policy or should not?

  2. Thank you so much, Andy. We’re so glad that you’ve seen the light and realize that teachers are interchangeable. We’ll save so much money on training and teacher evaluation that we can put back into the things that matter most like tenure systems and seniority bonuses and bringing back the Oxford comma.

  3. In all seriousness, I am wary of dismantling LIFO policies because I believe they will be replaced with the following bases for retention (in no particular order): (1) Teachers the principal likes (maybe they belong to the same church or have kids who are friends); (2) Teachers who never criticize the principal or any of his policies publicly (see #1); (3) Teachers who are inexperienced and, hence, cheapest; and (4) Teachers who actually are good teachers.

    As a former teacher (who has worked for several different principals), I am pretty confident that #4 (teaching effectiveness) will NOT be the only criteria used for retention decisions, although some policy makers seem to believe it will be — perhaps they never had the experience of working for a capricious principal?

  4. Attorney DC– THANK YOU!!! YOU ARE SO RIGHT! Because teachers might be evaluated on something other than teaching effectiveness we should not evaluate them at all when considering who to let go when we make staff reductions! Particularly in a system where there are no other legal or administrative protections against capricious principals! Bravo!

  5. Seems like a decent compromise would be to apply LIFO on a campus-by-campus basis rather than district basis.

    What generally happens in big multi-school districts is that you get the senior teachers congregating in the most desirable schools and the younger less experienced teachers end up in the tougher or less desirable schools. Then when you apply LIFO the tougher schools get decimated while the upscale “desirable” schools are hardly touched. And you also get senior teachers being forced to transfer to the less desirable schools to fill in the gaps.

    If LIFO is applied on a campus-by-campus basis then each campus would be responsible for RIFing the same number of teachers and each campus would then be affected equally by teacher turnover. Also, younger teachers (or senior teachers) who want more job security can chose to teach at the tougher schools. In an uncertain employment environment it would create a powerful incentive for teachers to seek out positions at tougher schools where they will automatically have more seniority.

    I would also do it department by department (at least at the HS level). If a school needs to get rid of 5 teachers and the five least senior teachers are all science teachers that makes no sense. Take one from each department that needs to be cut.

    That would still take out most of the subjectivity in the process while greatly reducing the impact on individual schools.

  6. Kent: Well put. Thanks for your practial insights into how these things work in the big districts.

    Vianne: The difference between schools and for-profit companies is that schools do not turn a profit. There is no profit incentive for principals to keep good teachers. There is also little collaboration between the principal and teachers at a school – A good math teacher doesn’t help the daily job of a principal the way an efficient secretary helps her boss. In addition, with a very high employee to supervisor (ie., teacher to principal) ratio — in the neighborhood of 75 to 1 — it is difficult for principals to thoroughly evaluate teachers, especially in schools with high turnover.

    Glad I’m not a teacher anymore, and don’t have to deal with non-educators trying to pull the strings when it comes to my job, my compensation, and my evaluation.

  7. Kent: I think your understanding of LIFO is that it blindly lays off the youngest X% of people in a school district. This is certainly not the case (at least here in DCPS).

    In DCPS, everything already happens at the school level. In fact, when cuts are needed, they look within departments as well. The principal can generally decide what needs to be cut (e.g. an English position or, say, 2 science positions). The effect of LIFO is that, within those chosen subcategories, principals find it close to impossible to fire anyone but the youngest of teachers. That’s how I was RIFed by my school last year (we had to cut an English position and I was the youngest so I was cut).

    I despise LIFO. But I think the way it is applied in reality is not as blind or foolish as you make it out to be (again, it is still foolish).

  8. In Reply to Attorney DC You stated “Vianne: The difference between schools and for-profit companies is that schools do not turn a profit. There is no profit incentive for principals to keep good teachers.”

    I believe there are other ways to look at this. Principles are looking to keep whatever teachers they view as valuable based on what THEY believe is valuable. These days, at least in the Clark County School District, passing high stakes test scores are like gold! I am sure it is the same way in other places. It seems sometimes the administrators only care about those test scores. I am not sure how test scores effect an administrator’s salary but I do know that test scores can effect funding at certain schools. So while schools aren’t making a profit they can continue to LOSE money if they don’t increase those test scores.

    What is the best ways to increase test scores? Load up your school with Amazing teachers! Teachers should be evaluated based on performance. Good teachers in….bad teachers out.

    Unfortunately, with a process like this, it would be subjective. Human judging human, and there is bound to be flaws and scandal. Principles barely have enough time to evaluate right now.

    This kind of process could cause arguing and competition as well as diminish a lot of collaborative efforts. I believe this is why we are forced into losing teachers based on seniority.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how we can do this better?

  9. I am a Pre-K teacher in Georgia. Thanks to Gov. Deal, he is tryingg to cut Pre-K jobs. In the beginning, last hired was first fired. I began to worry but then the principal decided to base it on evaluations. I have had nothing but great evaluations so i hope I am safe through this round anyway.

  10. I think that in some cases LIFO can be understandable. The teachers with the least experience are nixed. However, some teachers who are, shall we say, VERY experienced who likely don’t have the energy to put forth in their instruction than someone who may not have the experience. I think that as teachers we need to put forth energy and be excited about each lesson.

  11. Tyler: The problem is (from a legal standpoint) that you’re talking about firing for cause (when you implied that certain older teachers aren’t putting forth as much effort) VS reductions-in-force for budgetary reasons. This is exactly what Michelle Rhee did in DC: She used a ‘budget crisis’ to allow principals to pick teachers and essentially fire them for cause, at the principals’ discretion.

    RIF’s should not be used to circumvent the evaluation, review and termination procedures outlined in teachers’ contracts. In a RIF, we assume that all teachers are capable, and the school should use a standard procedure (LIFO) to fairly and impartially excise teachers in the event of a budgetary shortfall.

    If a principal has an underperforming teacher, the principal should evaluate and/or discipline the teacher according to procedure (often including a performance improvement plan). If the principal is not taking any documented actions to evaluate/discipline a teacher, the principal should not attempt to use the excuse of a layoff to terminate teachers for subjective performance reasons.

  12. Tyler,

    I am an early childhood teacher in Colorado and our district is currently experiencing the yearly scare over jobs being cut. Of course I am a first year teacher and even moved all the way across the country from Georgia just in order to get a job last May and now the first teachers talking about being cut are those who just came in. The LIFO procedure makes teachers such as myself furious because I know my abilities and see so many teachers who may have the experience under their belts, lacking in their jobs. Due to the fact these teachers have taught for 3 or more years means of course they have the guarantee of not losing their jobs. No matter what a teachers experience they should be examined by the higher powers just in case there are younger, less experienced teachers who are doing a more efficent job than they are. The old systems of keeping the more experienced educators around and being hesistant of bringing in newer ones needs the boot!

  13. I am a third year teacher in Jersey City, and across the pond New York just lid off over 2,000 teachers. Newark Laid off 1,000 teachers maost of them are new teachers. LIFO is a ridicules policy. In order to better prepare our students the best teachers must stay reguardless of their experience. Old sports reference its better to take a person with natural talent that you can train and improve on their skills. Then a person who is already set in their ways. I believe that if someone is not doing their job then they need to be let go.

  14. Due to the fact these teachers have taught for 3 or more years means of course they have the guarantee of not losing their jobs.
    Even if they show up drunk?

  15. Response to said Brooklyn teacher’s explanation:

    The title of the linked entry (“Teach for America Silences Voices of Rank-and-File Teachers on LIFO Panel”) induces a strong signal on my bullshit-ometer, and reading further confirms my suspicions. That TFA declined to have you on the panel doesn’t at all suggest they acted to “silence” any voices, particularly of all rank-and-file teachers. That they originally invited you to be on the panel, and that you got bumped when the UFT VP later RSVPed, makes your claim sound even more foolish. To think that they would want to shun rank-and-file teachers by booting you for — of all possibilities– a union VP and experienced teacher.

    Your numbered arguments are no better than your introduction:

    1) You imply that teacher supervisors are “all too often” not acting in the best interest of students, yet you give no evidence or reasoning for this. You suggest arbitrary layoffs “based on a myriad of possibilities” are prevented by LIFO, yet they aren’t (are you confusing LIFO and due process?). You further suggest that LIFO is “the only objective process that keeps their teachers from being silenced”, when it only does so for those that have more years under their belt. This also assumes there’s some vague conspiracy afoot against all experienced teachers, presumably spearheaded by those child-hating administrators you referenced?

    2) Some of the more enticing outcomes for merit-pay are attracting stronger candidates for teaching positions and making teaching a more desirable career, not just to directly impact student outcomes. Teachers tend to maintain they want to be treated like professionals, and merit-pay is one such pathway to this end.

    Also, that you define tests as “socioeconomic status indicators” further degrades any credibility on this subject you may have hitherto held. To think: all those poor kids that improve on their test scores are actually all getting richer!

    3) It seems you forgot your immediately prior argument — that tests are useless– since “research that shows experience matters” by and large comes to such conclusions with the help of test scores.

    Also, this is another illogical position. You argue that teachers with more experience tend to be more effective and thus we should keep all the experienced ones, yet we could save ourselves the trouble of hoping one variable correlates 100% with another and just base staffing decisions directly on effectiveness. Whereas your position defends all experienced teachers regardless of if they are effective or not (and kicks to the curb all the lesser-experienced teachers that may still be effective), the more direct approach here would be just to utilize teaching effectiveness instead, to assure a higher % chance of hiring/retaining the best staff possible.

    Notice also that your argument here implies that there are ways to directly gauge teacher effectiveness (how do you think your cited research came to these conclusions?), and so any response of yours related to there not being a good way to utilize effectiveness is bunk.

    4) More baseless accusations. This is good stuff. And even a free market reference, too!

    5) Did you really just suggest that we will lose black/Latino educators if we base staffing decisions on effectiveness?

    6) Considering there are several holes in your logic (see above), there actually is good rationale for why grounding staffing decisions on seniority can be problematic.

    And to respond to the stuff you are for:

    1) Layoffs based solely on seniority rights is objective, sure, but it is based on a metric that doesn’t directly correlate with effectiveness. There are other objective (and more direct) ways we can utilize effectiveness…

    2) …and since you here suggest evaluations should be “judged based on classroom observations, student input when appropriate, parent satisfaction, and some measure of data”, you’re already in agreement with many reformers out there. This is a good start!

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