Not So Golden: Principals’ Views on California Teacher Layoff Policies

Not So Golden: Principals’ Views on California Teacher Layoff Policies

  California’s Principals Signal Strong Dissatisfaction with Current Teacher Layoff Policies
Principals Support a System Based on Performance and Seniority, New Teach Plus Survey Finds

LOS ANGELES, FEBRUARY 23, 2016—A new Teach Plus survey finds that California’s principals are largely dissatisfied with the state’s seniority-based teacher layoff policies and believe that the current system can adversely affect teacher quality. The survey of more than 500 public school principals shows broad support for layoff decisions that place significant consideration on performance while taking seniority into account.   

The survey, Not So Golden: Principals’ Views on California Teacher Layoff Policies, is the third in a series of Teach Plus reports and policy briefs released following the June 2014 Vergara v. California decision that analyze educators’ views on tenure, layoff and dismissal. As the Los Angeles appellate court prepares to hear oral arguments in the California Teachers Association appeal of the decision on February 25, it is critical that the views of California’s K-12 public school principals are also brought into focus.

The survey’s key findings are:
•    69 percent of California’s public school principals are dissatisfied with the state’s current system for determining teacher layoffs.
•    Principals believe that California’s seniority-based teacher layoff system can negatively impact teacher quality.  
•    Principals support a system where teacher layoff decisions are heavily determined by performance, while still taking seniority into account.  On average, principals indicated that layoffs should be determined 31 percent by seniority and 69 percent by performance.
•    Principals share similar perspectives on teacher layoff policies across schools with varying student socioeconomic levels.

“School principals, like the classroom teachers we’ve previously surveyed, show strong support for a modified layoff policy that takes both seniority and performance into account and can better address the needs of students, teachers, and school leaders in California,” said Mike Stryer, California Senior Executive Director for Teach Plus and a co-author of the study.  “I encourage our state policy makers to heed their views and consider legislative action on this and other key teacher quality issues.”

Teach Plus’ January 2015 survey of 506 traditional public school teachers around California found that 71 percent of teachers supported the use of teacher performance in the classroom in determining layoffs and that overall teachers favored an equal use of performance and seniority in layoff decisions.  In September of 2014, four months after the Vergara ruling, a group of 30 Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows, all of whom teach in diverse public schools across Los Angeles, recommended a new approach to layoff policy that accounted for teacher effectiveness while using seniority as a secondary criterion. 

“I’d like to see teacher effectiveness become one of the factors in layoff decisions – not simply the date when you signed your contract,” said Lauren Stuart, a National Board Certified 8th grade English teacher at El Rodeo School and a co-author of the study.

About Teach Plus
Teach Plus empowers excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Teach Plus runs three programs designed to place teacher leaders at the center of improvements in policy and practice: Teaching Policy Fellowship, C2 Initiative, and T3 Initiative.  The programs focus on demonstrably effective teachers who want to continue classroom teaching while also expanding their impact as leaders in their schools and in district, state, and national policy.  Since its inception in August 2009, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 22,000 solutions-oriented teachers across the country.