Layoffs, as painful as they are, should fall on the least-effective teachers when layoffs are absolutely unavoidable.
—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, 22 March 2011
Most teacher layoffs during the Great Recession were implemented following inverse-seniority policies. This paper examines the implementation of a discretionary layoff policy in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Administrators did not uniformly lay off the most or least senior teachers but instead selected teachers who were previously retired, late-hired, unlicensed, low-performing, or nontenured.
The author of the paper estimates the differential effects of teacher layoffs on student achievement based on teacher seniority and effectiveness. Mathematics achievement in grades that lost an effective teacher, as measured by principal evaluations or value-added scores, decreased 0.05 to 0.11 standard deviations more than in grades that lost an ineffective teacher. In contrast, teacher seniority has limited predictive power on the effects of layoffs. Simulation analyses show that the district selected teachers who were, on average, less effective than those teachers identified under an inverse-seniority policy.