LA lays off effective teachers

When Los Angeles schools lay off teachers, performance doesn’t count, reports the Los Angeles Times. Seniority is the only factor.  Schools with young staffs have been hit hard by layoffs.

At John H. Liechty Middle School opened in 2007 in Los Angeles’ impoverished Westlake neighborhood with a seasoned principal, dozens of energetic young teachers and a mission to “reinvent education” in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The students had come from some of the lowest-performing schools in the city. But by the end of the first year, their scores on standardized tests showed the most improvement in English among district middle schools and exceptional growth in math, according to a Times analysis.

. . . But when budget cuts came in the summer of 2009 — at the end of the school’s second year — more than half of the teachers were laid off. Among those dismissed were (Monique) Gascon and 16 others who ranked in the top fifth of district middle school instructors in boosting test scores, The Times’ analysis found. Many were replaced by a parade of less effective teachers, including many short-term substitutes.

By the end of the last school year, Liechty had plummeted from first to 61st — near the bottom among middle schools — in raising English scores and fallen out of the top 10 in boosting math scores.

Using value-added analysis, the Times found 190 teachers in the top 20 percent were laid off, along with  more than 400 ranked in the top 40%.  Of 16 schools that lost at least 25 percent of their teachers, 15 were in low-income areas.

Because pay is linked to experience, not to performance, districts have to lay off more junior teachers to balance the budget.  Twenty-five percent more teachers would be working, if Los Angeles Unified had based its cuts on teachers’ records in improving test scores rather than seniority, the Times reports.

Liechty’s laid-off teachers were offered jobs as long-term substitutes, but many left to teach at private schools or quit the teaching profession; two enrolled in law school.  The principal moved on to another school.

It proved difficult to replace Liechty’s teachers. The middle school was forced to hire elementary teachers whose positions had been cut to save money. They had enough seniority to avoid a layoff, but few wanted to teach low-income middle-school students. “Of those who did accept jobs at Liechty, some left in tears within days or called in sick every day,” teachers told the Times. They were replaced by short-term substitutes.

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  1. CarolineSF says:

    This is the way our Newspaper Guild contract at the San Jose Mercury News worked too. It’s the norm in “reduction in force” layoffs.

  2. It’s true that the newest people are usually the first to go. But is that how it should always be? Should that be an enforced rule, as it is in the schools? Or should employers and principals be able to exercise their judgment?

  3. CarolineSF says:

    Understood that it’s a subject of debate. I’m just saying that it’s not some unique outrage and that Joanne Jacobs potentially benefited from it herself in the past as a Newspaper Guild-covered employee of the San Jose Mercury News with seniority (as did I). It’s disingenuous to treat it as an outrage unique to teachers.

    Of course, with teachers, it could be “the students are bored and they’re not learning,” or “he raised questions about why money from the school budget was disappearing,” or “she flunked the Mayor’s child for not doing his homework”…

  4. How about if we treat it as an outrage common to all jobs in which a labor union has a say since labor unions are indifferent to job skills?

    The practice does work especially well in the public education system though since the employer as well as the union are indifferent to the skill of the employee.

  5. Louse Barrett says:

    Teachers in LA County read about your upcoming lay offs
    Why is it that the foreign Gulen Movement that manages over 150 Charter schools in the USA continues to falsely obtain h1-b work visas for un qualified teachers from Turkey / Turkic speaking countries? In the Los Angeles County the Gulen Schools are called Magnolia Science Academy. Read the h1-b Visa report below, they are claiming they cannot find math, science, computer and English teachers in the USA. These schools have recently been busted in Ohio for hiring foreigners via the Concept Schools.
    H1-b Visa info here:
    In fact, did you know that the Cosmos Foundation part of the Gulen Movement has immigrated more foreign teachers in than the largest school district in the USA. Of course that would be LAUSD, who is allowing this? That number for Cosmos Foundation alone is over 1,100 h1-b visas since 2001 and Cosmos Foundation is only ONE of the Gulen Movement’s NGOs that are doing this. Who is dismantling the American Education System so followers of Islamic Imam Fethullah Gulen can teach our children?
    Not only visas for teachers but now they are getting h1-b visas for finance managers, business managers and legal counsel (as if America doesn’t have thousands of qualified people for these jobs)
    If you are a proud American Teacher and have been laid off, do what the teachers in Chicago and Ohio have done…………………………fight back against the Gulen Movement overtaking America’s education.

  6. Mark Roulo says:

    It’s true that the newest people are usually the first to go. But is that how it should always be? Should that be an enforced rule, as it is in the schools? Or should employers and principals be able to exercise their judgment?

    I believe that “the newest people are usually the first to go” during layoffs is *not* the case for many industries. I work as a programmer in the semiconductor equipment industry. The industry is *HIGHLY* cyclical, and we are laying off people every three or four years (this is what happens when your sales drop by 50% … or more).

    My observation is that usually the newest employees (say up to 2 years with the company) are fairly safe. And the employees that have made it through several layoffs tend to make it through the next one. The employees in the middle are most at risk as a group.

    This sorta makes sense.

    *) The managers haven’t *really* gotten a handle on how good/bad the newer employees are yet, so they tend to be in the middle of the pack when the stacking happens. Basically, they haven’t had enough time/opportunity to screw up and show that they aren’t very good. Also, the newer employees tend to be cheaper.

    *) The people who have survived several layoffs tend to be at least average. Otherwise they would have been laid off during one of the previous layoffs. Again, in general.

    *) The ones in the middle are the ones that the managers have had enough time to form an opinion about and for some of them this opinion will be low. Those are the ones to go first during a layoff.

    Now, all of this is speaking of broad averages.

    A fairly new employee may well get laid off. As may senior employees (especially if the senior employee has allowed his/her skill set to get out of date). And good employees do get let go if/when their manager can’t stand them. And sometimes we let go good people because we are cutting *VERY* deeply. Or a manager goofs.

    But laying off by seniority just isn’t part of the culture. And I suspect that this is true for many/most Silicon Valley engineering firms. Maybe for most engineering firms in the US as a whole.

    For unionized industries I’d expect laying off by seniority to be the rule rather than the exception, but unionization outside of government is getting more and more rare (about 8% or so, I think). The vast majority of private sector employees don’t belong to a union and I’d be surprised if the non-union employees are laid off by seniority instead of cost/talent/whatever.

  7. This is the interesting part to the story.

    “Twenty-five percent more teachers would be working, if Los Angeles Unified had based its cuts on teachers’ records in improving test scores rather than seniority….”