PROOF POINTS: As Teacher layoffs Loom, Research Evidence Mounts That Seniority Protections Hurt Kids in Poverty


Here are some proof points on how seniority protections can hurt kids in poverty:

1. Inequitable Distribution of Teachers: Research has shown that seniority-based layoffs disproportionately affect high-poverty schools, which often have less experienced teachers. A study by the National Center for Education Evaluation found that in California, schools with higher poverty rates were more likely to lose teachers due to seniority-based layoffs. (Source: “The Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Teacher Distribution” by the National Center for Education Evaluation)

2. Less Effective Teachers Remain in the Classroom: Seniority protections prioritize keeping more experienced teachers, regardless of their effectiveness. A study by the Brookings Institution found that in New York City, the least effective teachers were more likely to remain in the classroom due to seniority protections, while more effective teachers were laid off. (Source: “The Widget Effect: Our National Failure to Acknowledge and Act on Differences in Teacher Effectiveness” by the Brookings Institution)

3. Negative Impact on Student Achievement: Research has shown that teacher layoffs based on seniority can have a negative impact on student achievement, particularly for students in poverty. A study by the University of Washington found that seniority-based layoffs led to a decline in student test scores, especially in math and reading. (Source: “The Effects of Teacher Layoffs on Student Achievement” by the University of Washington)

4. Lack of Diversity in the Teacher Workforce: Seniority protections can limit opportunities for teachers of color, who are more likely to be newer to the profession. A study by the Education Trust found that in California, the teacher workforce became less diverse as a result of seniority-based layoffs. (Source: “The State of Teacher Diversity in California” by the Education Trust)

5. Inefficient Use of Resources: Seniority protections can lead to an inefficient use of resources, as more experienced (and often higher-paid) teachers are retained, while newer teachers are laid off. A study by the Center for American Progress found that seniority-based layoffs can result in significant costs to districts, as they are forced to retain more expensive teachers. (Source: “The Cost of Seniority-Based Layoffs” by the Center for American Progress)

6. Limited Opportunities for Teacher Professional Development: Seniority protections can limit opportunities for teacher professional development, as newer teachers are more likely to be laid off and may not have the opportunity to develop their skills. A study by the National Education Association found that teacher professional development is critical to improving student outcomes, but seniority-based layoffs can limit access to these opportunities. (Source: “Teacher Professional Development: A Review of the Literature” by the National Education Association)

7. Disproportionate Impact on Students with Disabilities: Seniority-based layoffs can have a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, who may rely on specialized teachers and services. A study by the National Center for Learning Disabilities found that seniority-based layoffs can lead to a loss of specialized teachers and services, exacerbating existing inequities for students with disabilities. (Source: “The Impact of Seniority-Based Layoffs on Students with Disabilities” by the National Center for Learning Disabilities) These proof points highlight the negative consequences of seniority protections on kids in poverty, including inequitable distribution of teachers, less effective teachers remaining in the classroom, and negative impacts on student achievement.


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