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Seniority Won't Protect Teachers from Layoffs in a Chicago Suburb

Teachers working in schools in the affluent Chicago suburbs bordering Lake Michigan are facing layoffs based on their performance ratings, reports the Chicago Tribune

The North Shore school district, in preparation for imminent school closings, will lay off dozens of teachers in the coming months. The dismissals will take effect before the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

The closings of two elementary schools, one middle school, and an early-childhood center at the end of this school year are an attempt to cut costs. The school closings and reduction in staff are projected to save $5 million a year, according to the district's website. 

A 2011 state law weakened seniority protections, which means dismissal is no longer a matter of letting go teachers with the fewest years on the job. The new layoff procedures, which took effect last fall, require the district to consider teachers' performance ratings and student growth. (You can read more about Senate Bill 7 in this EdWeek article). Student growth makes up 25 percent of a teacher's performance rating. In the North Shore school district, student growth is determined by tests that teachers have created rather than on standardized tests.

How will the North Shore school district decide which teachers to lay off? Following the law's guidelines, the first step will be to group teachers by the subjects they are qualified to teach. Next, the teachers will be grouped once again by their evaluation ratings. These include: excellent, proficient, needs improvement or unsatisfactory.

First to be laid off will likely be part-time and first-year nontenured teachers who have yet to undergo an evaluation, according to the Chicago Tribune. Those with the best shot of keeping their jobs are teachers rated excellent or proficient. If teachers considered for dismissal have the same ratings, seniority in the district can be used as a deciding factor. Additional experience teaching public school in other districts can also be a deciding factor.

The district will notify teachers of their dismissal no later than March 24, according to the Tribune, or at least 45 days before the end of the school year as required by law. The school board will vote on the layoffs on April 4.

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