Laying off teachers by performance ratings, not by classroom experience. Good idea or dangerous trend?

So, how do you all feel about Senate Bill 184, which would require local school systems to use teacher performance as the primary factor in layoffs?

I wrote about this idea earlier this year after a call from Cobb school board member David Morgan, husband of state Rep. Alisha Morgan, D-Austell.

Morgan told me about the trip that he made to Colorado with his wife and state House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, to talk to the sponsor of a teacher reform bill  that passed there with bi-partisan support.

(Alisha Morgan could not move her bill, so she is now backing SB 184.) At the time, Lindsey told me that any bill here would consider the input of educators.  Any teachers out there ever contacted? I know some of you tried to set up meetings with Lindsey.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.

According to a news story today on SB 84:

Supporters argue that policy change will give job security to the best educators and give middling teachers incentive to improve.

“If we want the best students and to improve our education system, we have got to have the best teachers,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, the measure’s sponsor. “Anything else is contrary to keeping the best employees.”

Opponents say the legislation isn’t necessary because job performance has been included as a factor in decisions on layoffs for years. They worry the issue draws focus away from school funding cuts the state has made for years.

“It’s not really necessary,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “We have some legislators who feel the need to chase national stories.”

Cash-strapped school districts have been handing out pink slips by the hundreds, even thousands, for the past few years. That’s led to closer scrutiny of last-hired- first-fired policies.

Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island have recently written into law or policy that seniority will not be the primary factor in deciding who is laid off, said Emily Cohen, district policy director for the National Council on Teacher Quality.

But for the majority of school districts, seniority is the most important determinant of layoff decisions, Cohen said. The question hit Georgia last year, when as many as 9,000 of the state’s 125,000 teachers were projected to lose their jobs from budget cuts.

Many of those workers kept their jobs after an influx of federal stimulus money, but by then, stories were beginning to surface that some top-notch educators were gone because they lacked tenure or seniority.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, a Democrat from Austell, heard about one teacher in Cobb County who lost her job despite being her school’s teacher of the year.

Federal money got her re-hired, and Cobb changed its policy to look first at performance for its teachers, she said. Still, the situation stuck with Morgan, whose husband serves on the county school board.

Morgan proposed legislation (HB 257) that would have made teacher performance – including student achievement – the main factor for layoffs in Georgia school districts. Her proposal stalled in the House Rules Committee, so she has taken up the Senate version to get a new policy in place.

“Their claim is, of course, they use performance, but what they do in practice does not match up,” Morgan said of districts where teachers let go included department heads and other outstanding educators. “The fact is, looking mainly at years of service is problematic if your goal is to do what’s in the best interest of the kids.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

154 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

April 11th, 2011
12:42 pm

What a horrible horrible idea. However, that only means that GA will pass the law and it will be enforced throughout the State.

The measures of a “good” teacher or “good” performance are so very subjective and are so very dependent on too many variables totally out of control of the teacher. Let me name a few:
1. classes assigned to the teacher. A ‘pet’ teacher can easily be given the ‘good’ students while another teacher is given the ‘troubled’ students. This would be the fault of that teacher?
2. The adminstrator walks into the classroom for 5 minutes and makes a judgement call on that teachers evaluation that is totally wrong. It is that teachers fault that they only spent 5 minutes in there?
3. The administrator wants to decrease their budget spent on salary, so the most senior teacher has the highest pay. Guess which teacher will be deemed the ‘least’ effective?

For those that truely know what goes on “behind doors” in education, you realize that this will open a can of worms that – bottom line – isn’t good for the students.

THIS is when Georgia desperately needs a real teacher union!


April 11th, 2011
12:44 pm

Does this go for administrators, too?

Tonya C.

April 11th, 2011
12:55 pm

I’m ambivalent on this one. In theory, it sounds great. The worst performers being booted? Yeah!. the teachers that all the good teachers in the building know suck? This is a Godsend! Then the reality hits and I realize that this is NOT going to play out like that without some safeguards in place, and the GA legislature ain’t thinking about no safeguards!

The HR person in me knows that his will most likely be used on the most expensive teachers in the school along with those who are on the administration’s poop list.

Henry County Teacher

April 11th, 2011
1:00 pm

Bullys are loved at WCE!!!!!!!


April 11th, 2011
1:20 pm

Most of us already boot the poor performing employees.

The underlying assumption within this movement is that experienced teachers are bad teachers and new teachers are good teachers. That is a line of baloney and can not be backed with hard data.

The other myth connected with this is that experience does not make you a better teacher. Again, baloney! The most detrimental thing for children would be for schools to have a sudden shift in teacher experience levels. In fact, one of the most notable problems with inner city, poor performing schools is that so many of the teachers in those schools are new, lack experience, and often times lack proper credentials for teaching. For years, we have been hearing about how big of a problem this is for those struggling schools. So, if new teachers instead of experienced teachers are so great, then why does that cause a problem for these urban schools?

The true meaning of this legislation would be “Fire at will!”

Seymore Skinner

April 11th, 2011
1:27 pm

@ HS Teach

Who would YOU get rid of in education? Sounds like you don’t want any teacher to lose their job, no matter how BAD they are in the classroom.

Way to put the children first!

HS Administrator

April 11th, 2011
1:28 pm

What will we do with the coaches?


April 11th, 2011
1:31 pm

If there is a surplus of teachers in Georgia, why do we need provisional certification?

Think about it.


April 11th, 2011
1:39 pm

I agree with Tonya. They are simply seeking a method and manner with which to fire more expensive teachers, not necessarily the worst. I have seen administrators pander to some of the most ineffective teachers out there because they are their “friend”.

Just saying

April 11th, 2011
1:39 pm

What about the teachers that sleep with the administration? That’s the basis for pay in some school systems.

anonymous coward

April 11th, 2011
1:40 pm

I'm just saying

April 11th, 2011
1:43 pm

The state hasn’t come up with an evaluation system yet that can measure performance between a “good” and “bad” teacher, so how do they think this can work. Oh yes, I remember. The people go to Atlanta every year, kick a few ideas around, eat lots of lobbyist food, etc., run out of time, pass laws at the last minute with no idea how they can be carried out or the repercussions. Personalities would come into play too much for this to ever be fair. I’m sure a large majority of us have worked somewhere for one supervisor that couldn’t stand us, yet another trusts you and gappreciates you.

frustrated parent

April 11th, 2011
1:44 pm

Again someone making a decision about our children’s education who has no idea about the educational system….when will educators be allowed to decide what is best for education. Unless you have been in the classroom in a school building you can not understand the delicate balance that is involved. Educators are not walking into businesses and telling them how to do their jobs. A major change is needed. I’m not pro union, but eductors need a strong. loud voice to speak up for them right now or the institution {currently in trouble} will be totally destroyed.

I'm just saying

April 11th, 2011
1:46 pm

@Just saying–the PSC can take care of that!


April 11th, 2011
1:47 pm

@HS Public Teacher – why don’t you try the real world? All the things you list as unfair occur out in the corporate world. In the real world, the “pet” sales/marketing personnel get the best/most lucrative accounts. As a result, they do well and get even better accounts/pay/job security. When someone needs to lay off staff/management in the real world… they look at many factors, but a big one is who are the most expensive, i.e. senior, employees. I used to advise companies in employment matters, and I spent countless hours on the phone helping companies “build” a file on an employee that they needed to get rid of b/c he/she was too expensive. Would any company admit that they do this? Probably not, but they do it all the time.

Higher ups in the real world make judgment calls based on 5 minutes in a presentation. This is uncommon (and it is also uncommon in public education) but it does happen. Higher ups also make employment decisions based on politics. Is it unfair? yes…. but you learn to deal with it.

The only difference is that we endure all this “unfairness” but, unlike you, still have to come up with our own retirement.

I am all for basing teacher job security on performance. It defies logic to keep a subpar teacher around just because they have been subpar for longer than most. It amazes me that any tax payer would want it any other way. Teachers who don’t like it can give it a go in the corporate world and see how much better it is there.

I say double teacher pay but throw them out on their butts immediately if they don’t get the job done and well. That will never happen, of course, so public education will never be worth a darn. The first to go should be teachers that complain about being judged based on ability.


April 11th, 2011
1:47 pm

Everyone of those deemed “middling” was hired by whom? I would be surprised if this bill is passed; I mean most of these part-time legislators don’t really have a clue so who is pushing this effort?

Tonya C.

April 11th, 2011
1:48 pm


Now that you bring that up, I just was on another forum and a young lady spoke of being hired as a GATAPP teacher for next year. Her degree is in science but her current occupation is a therapist. She has ZERO teaching experience. First thing I thought of: aren’t there enough laid off teachers and newcomers from schools of education to fill the pipeline? Why hire someone with no experience in education at this time.

And the first thing out her mouth: You can make about 45k with a masters, plus you get summer and all the holidays off! Can’t wait to see how she feels after the first semester is done….


April 11th, 2011
1:50 pm

@frustrated parent educators do not walk into businesses to tell them what to do b/c they are not paying for the business to function. If they don’t like a business they talk with their feet by leaving. Businesses pay for themselves by delivering a quality product or service. If they stink, they go out of business b/c people don’t buy their stuff.

In public education, they are funded regardless of whether they are doing a hideous job of educating children… they could care less if you pull you child out… they still get your money.

Atlanta Native

April 11th, 2011
1:52 pm

@ intown mom You got it right.

Tonya C.

April 11th, 2011
1:52 pm


You are VERY incorrect on 5-minute presentations setting the standard for evaluations in education. It is actually VERY common. And as someone in HR would I want my childrens’ schools run the way many corporations are? That’s like exchanging crap for poop. We MUST create a better model than that.

Many teachers are willing to be judged on ability, but only if administrator’s are under the same gun.That would keep the playing field at least somewhat fair.


April 11th, 2011
1:53 pm

@Tonya C – my guess is that she will do an amazing job but will probably leave eventually b/c she can’t deal with working with so many lazy, low intelligence, colleagues. Getting a teaching degree sucks every bit of common sense out of your brain – it’s like the teaching schools make zombies out of people. They are all brainwashed.

Cotton D.

April 11th, 2011
1:56 pm

I find it ironic that teachers complain about their pay, but as I grew up through grade school, the students that cheated the most in class, all wound up becoming teachers. Furthermore, they tried other majors in colleges, and all eventually changed to education because it was easiest. One former classmate of mine changed college majors 4 times before deciding her education major was the one she could achieve. Now she gripes about her pay.


April 11th, 2011
1:57 pm

I am not sure what the solution is. If you simply protect all teachers with tenure, then you risk having some bad teachers with lots of experience. But if you have no protection, then you risk the schools balancing budgets by firing god experienced (read: expensive) teachers like the idiots in the corporate world have a tendency to do.

“The measures of a “good” teacher or “good” performance are so very subjective and are so very dependent on too many variables totally out of control of the teacher.”
“They are simply seeking a method and manner with which to fire more expensive teachers, not necessarily the worst.”
“I have seen administrators pander to some of the most ineffective teachers out there because they are their “friend”.”

Sorry, but it sounds like where most people work. I have seen horrible employees retained because they suck up to the manager. I have seen good employees let go because they have been around too long (”we need fresh blood/ideas”) and/or make too much money. And as for being let go for things outside of your control – well gee whiz that just isn’t fair is it, but there are millions of folks standing in the unemployment line who can talk to you about it.

Inman Park Boy

April 11th, 2011
1:58 pm

Not sure what would be “dangerous” about tying layoffs and dismissals to performace. That’s pretty much how its done everywhere except in goverment. And look at our government, including schools. Most public school principals despair over getting rid of a poor teacher, and usually end up just ignoring the problem. The courts long ago ruled that public employees have a “property interest” in their jobs, and cannot be fired without “due process of law.” That takes so much time and effort that principals often “give up,” and system personnel administrators, frightened of lawsuits, allow it to continue. Pitiful. I urge citizens to support all performace based layoffs.


April 11th, 2011
1:59 pm

@ Tonya C – If schools were run like corporations in the real world, they would strive to make a profit. However, they would constantly have to worry about putting our a quality product or they would go out of business. If they aren’t educating your child, you get to leave – why do you have a problem with that?

I would like to see education completely privatized. Quality teachers would make a mint and have the best working conditions while mediocre and low quality teachers would make minimum wage which is what they should make if they are little more than babysitters.

Mikey D

April 11th, 2011
2:04 pm

I did have contact with Ed Lindsey on about 4 different occasions. However, it was only through email messages that he sent to assure me that his assistant would be contacting me very soon to participate in a conference call where I could share my input. Not surprisingly, that call never happened. Like most other leaders in this state, teacher input was sought only as window dressing.


April 11th, 2011
2:05 pm

I am one of those 9,000 teachers that lost their job last year and it was strictly because of my pay level. I increased my students test scores from the previous year from a previous teacher. I have taught for 7 years and never received an NI on an evaluation much less failed one and I still lost my job. When I was called into a meeting with my principal last June she said it’s nothing personal but the school only had the money for a first year teacher with a four year degree(I have masters) so we are going to fill your position with a new teacher. Because I was at a charter school that year I had little recourse with the PSC. All my other years of teaching experience are in standard public schools here in Georgia. Let me tell you “student interests” are at the bottom of the list on which teachers get hired and fired. Pay level, seniority, and administrator/teacher relationships are what decides who stays and who goes…not student interest and sadly I don’t see that changing.

Old Physics Teacher

April 11th, 2011
2:07 pm

Contacted Lindsey; got a boiler plate email back; responded and asked to be involved in a meeting; IGNORED! The only input they will get from teachers, is from “selected” teachers that will repeat exactly what they want the teacher to say. Same old – same old. Just like King Roy – we’re the cause of the problem. If they get rid of “bad” teachers, learning will improve. Unfortunately, facts are ignored.

For the “supporters:” yes, there are bad teachers. There are “bad” Walmart managers; there are “bad” bankers, there are “bad” stockbrokers. None of these have a material effect on the store’s sales, the interest rate, or the stock market from falling/rising. These “effects” are out of the control of the individuals.

Sigh, politicians look for scapegoats.


April 11th, 2011
2:07 pm

Long ago, in a still sane World, a company’s management would be held responsible for a company’s performance. Say Coca Cola’s performance is below expectation; would the company fire all employees or would it replace its management? It’s an old fashioned, capitalistic concept that even our Republican friends could support (I assume). Sure folks, there are bad teachers but there are bad employees in every company as well. To focus on bad teachers to solve this issue is insane! It may be time to radically improve teacher education by extending student teaching, implementing a mentor system, implementing firm (high) standards, and seriously reconsidering the special education and the “college degree for all” philosophy. Then, when the Schools of Education deliver well educated and prepared professionals, you have to pay to keep these professionals and you have to give them the professional responsibility to do their job! You do all of this after you acknowledge the important part of parents in the success of their children’s public education. You may want to think about monetary/economical/social incentives for parents to be seriously involved in their children’s education in one way or another.


April 11th, 2011
2:08 pm

@intownparent “I am all for basing teacher job security on performance. It defies logic to keep a subpar teacher around just because they have been subpar for longer than most. It amazes me that any tax payer would want it any other way. Teachers who don’t like it can give it a go in the corporate world and see how much better it is there.”

Well you’ll get your wish….all our best teachers (some of whom came out of the corportate world) are leaving to get back in it. So much for keeping the cream of the crop.
I know if I had to stay in teaching with this climate I’d be heading down to Ga State to get myself a new degree.

just saying

April 11th, 2011
2:12 pm

Who’s going to want to teach the average and below average kids? When your performance is tied to student performance, you want the best and brightest because they are easy to teach and score well on assessments. Take the teachers who always get the “good kids/top classes” and let them teach in a different setting and see how well they perform. Student performance is not always a good indicator of a good teacher.

Below the City

April 11th, 2011
2:19 pm

In our system you must have a masters to get hired as a teacher! They won’t hire T4s. Tonya C, 45k for a masters? Where? Please tell.

Cotton D.

April 11th, 2011
2:19 pm

Why are the teachers in south georgia being allowed to work at 49% and be paid locally at the majority of their salary, and also draw 100% of their retirement from the state? So they only work half a day and make about 75% of their former salary, and then also get their retirement. The idea down is, “well don’t fuss that we’re making 5 times what the average local salary is, because Atlanta’s tax dollars are paying for it, not our local tax dollars.”


April 11th, 2011
2:24 pm

What an awful idea. There is no clear cut solution but asking administrators to decide who gets fired from a 45 minute observation is crazy.


April 11th, 2011
2:25 pm

Of course HS public teacher isn’t for this…he/she probably has much seniority and realizes (s)he doesn’t have to work hard to keep his/her job…just keep giving passing grades while our society if flooded with kids who cannot read, write or speak proper English. Us private sector employees are employed (or laid off) based on our performance every single day. Public, esp. union workers, cannot grasp this because they have zero accountability, which is evidenced by the outrageous salary and benefits demands that have caused the rail, steel and auto industries to die here in the US. Fire all teachers who perform poorly and the rest of society will benefit greatly. And to you other public employees out there, you’re days of lolligagging through your jobs are over.


April 11th, 2011
2:27 pm

I couldn’t get into the education school in college, so I ended up in the business school. However, I now teach school.

Another Math Teacher

April 11th, 2011
2:38 pm

“What an awful idea. There is no clear cut solution but asking administrators to decide who gets fired from a 45 minute observation is crazy.”

If you get the 45 minute evaluation, you’re getting fired. If you get the 5 minute, you’re staying. They are noting everything you do wrong on the 45 minute one.

Even better yet is the administrator passing you in the hall and telling you to come to her office to sign off on one that she never did. Dated on a day you were absent. “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll change the date!”

scratching my head

April 11th, 2011
2:46 pm

What is up with the Morgans? Do they just live in the wrong part of Cobb County? Does Rep Morgan think that if every child could choose their school that the schools that still had all the poor and primarily minority populations would improve?


April 11th, 2011
2:51 pm

Why don’t we fire all teachers, and let the brave members of Corporate America jump in and do a better job? They can take complaints, lack of funding, no paper, no technology, no printer, no respect much better than we can.

Michigan teacher

April 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

How many times do people sitting at a desk make decisions for schools and teachers? The majority of legislators only know that their state looks bad in the total US. They panic and tell someone to “fix it”.
Do you think the colleges should be responsible for turning out top teachers? Do colleges want to keep students in college to give the professors and administrators jobs?
Too many student teachers are not evaluated properly; by the time they student-teach the student and the college don’t want to stop the process.
These student teachers need to be weeded-out early in their college years.
The Ga. legislature should look at the Nashville schools.


April 11th, 2011
2:52 pm

I’m all for getting the “best” teachers available. My mom is a teacher, and when they laid off folks at her school, they based a lot of the info on performance. My only concern. . . . in the elementary schools, it is pretty well known that 1-2 teachers a year get the “the bad group” from the year before, or “the underperforming group”. Therefore, they sometimes have a more challenging task of being a “good teacher”. Same with High School and Middle School. Once kids get into advanced classes, there are some teachers who will get these folks and others who won’t. And again, they can’t “perform” with these students like they can with top students.

What needs to happen is that the curriculum needs to change so that kids have more options instead of math, english, etc. I know that sounds funny, but you don’t see any high schools with vocational schools anymore, meaning kids don’t do woodwork, drafting, “shop”, home ec, etc. Some of these were “waste of time courses”, but now I’ve come to realize that we’ve sent a generation of kids thru school who know nothing about anything but math, english, science and computers. There are a lot of hands on, practical things that we are not teaching kids that need to be taught and I think our country is lagging behind in this area more than they are in “college curriculum” area. People forget that your basic jobs are also businesses, and these things need to be taught- home ec, shop, drafting, woodwork, etc. These things may actually “excite” kids into trying new ventures that they never cared about before (and become future business owners).

do the math

April 11th, 2011
2:55 pm

If we want to run the school systems like corperations, we need to be able to reject the raw “materials” sent in, just like manufacturers do.

RedNeck Rick

April 11th, 2011
2:58 pm

I feel bad for the teachers. Most Georgia kids are just plain stupid and the teacher’s livelihoods depend on their performance? Damn.

Another view

April 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

Using the state’s abysmal testing program to rate teachers is according to the research as close to coin flipping as you can get, so even though Race to the Bottom requires it, schools will be wrong almost half the time. Those who find themselves in the principalship range from wonderful teachers who are superbly capable of reviewing other teachers’ work to leftover unsuccessful football coaches who you wouldn’t want your worst enemy’s son or daughter being taught by, much less running a school, and unfortunately, there are LOTS of the second kind; the faculties in the universities too rarely have a clue what public school teaching is about (they only did it for a few years then got their doctorate so they didn’t have to do it anymore) so they have NO clue how to train new principals how to competently rate teachers – hence, principals are ALL too often the last people you want rating teachers. The state’s “Class Keys”, being readied for imposition as the teacher rating tool for Race, was developed by state Dept. of Ed. people who know less than nothing about developing such instrumentation, and hadn’t the sense to ask anyone who did. The best that can be said of these folks is they’re no longer in the classroom doing damage to your kids. Why Barge, who seems to have some sense, hasn’t unloaded these folks, puts into question his sense.
Those are your tools, folks. Which one are you going to choose to produce performance ratings to hire and fire by?

Mikey D

April 11th, 2011
3:04 pm

How do you define what constitutes performing poorly? Is it test scores of students? If so, who in their right mind would want to teach lower-level students? I teach EIP students because I believe I am an effective teacher who can make a difference for those kids. However, they probably will not exceed the levels of a class full of gifted kids on a standardized test. Does this mean that I’m performing poorly? If that’s the case, then I want the highest kids so I can be assured that my job is secure.
This is the problem with trying to tie teacher pay and/or job security to student achievement on standardized tests. And it’s also the problem with politicians and “private sector” folks who think they know everything about educating children, when in reality they know very little. (And in Ed Lindsey’s case, are unwilling to listen and actually learn a little more!)


April 11th, 2011
3:05 pm

@Jan – well said!

@intownparent – I have worked in education, non-profit, and corporate America…also have 3 post-secondary degrees (only 1 being in Education). I will say HANDS DOWN being a high school teacher in the public schools is the hardest job I have had in all three areas. My jobs in marketing/sales and HR were “cake walks” compared to teaching! I say this only to provide some leverage – people think educators are walking zombies but the reality is the majority of educators I come in contact with on a daily basis are VERY concerned about student achievement and data. However, the methods in which this data is analyzed, collected and distributed is the issue. My suggestion would be to spend some time with a quality educator (and there are plenty), learn the “real” issues going on in the educational system and then work to improve the system. A simple fix of throwing out “under-performing” teachers is like “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

Also two quick notes – teacher pension plans are funded partially by our salary and I DO NOT have an option to pay into this pension fund or receive social security….I do have an independent mutual fund – however I would prefer to take my pension money and invest it as I see fit. Finally, the business model works great when you are talking about a “product”….unfortunately students are NOT PRODUCTS and should not be treating this way. They are individual personalities with various learning needs and levels thus should not be treated in a “one-size-fits-all” corporate model.

Tonya C.

April 11th, 2011
3:08 pm

Below the city:

APS pays their starting teachers 41k I believe. Fulton is about at $45k for masters (possibly Dekalb too). You gonna work for it though….


April 11th, 2011
3:12 pm

I see why this will probably need to happen. The problem I have is how classes are set up. I have taught 4-12, both regular and special education, mostly in Atlalnta, but finished in a rural system. I, early on developed a reputation for being able to “handle” kids who need structure. As the years progressed my reading class became the ones who failed primaritly 5th grade CRCT or in TN 10th grade Gateway. Now, I know I got these because they wpuld pass tests when I was done…But sometimes in the last 5 years of teaching I really wanted the “good” group the new teacher got!

Tonya C.

April 11th, 2011
3:12 pm


Thanks for responding to intownparent. I just couldn’t today. I have already been called ’selfish’ for stating I am encouraging my husband to find a career outside education because he had options besides being a teacher, and the diminishing return is killing our bottom line. But he teaches special ed, and makes improvements in kids who have shown none. But, he’s just lazy and stupid according to so many here (and in the general public).

My kids WILL NEVER be anything resembling a public servant as a result of what I know now. They can get abused for WAY more money than the $35k my husband made this year…


April 11th, 2011
3:17 pm

No union equals screwed and if admin wants to get rid of those who are not favored they would put them in content areas where they have no comfort. Such as moving a 2nd grade teacher to 5th grade math.