Senate Bill 7 (SB7) was signed into law by Governor Patt Quinn in 2011. This law changes the way tenure and reductions in force work across all school districts in Illinois. The idea behind the law is that it will allow schools to more easily dismiss what they deem ineffective teachers. There are a lot of questions still unanswered about how this law will be implemented, particularly about how test scores and student growth will apply to teacher ranking. At this point, a few things are clear, seniority is no longer going to be the main criteria used to retain teachers, and administrator evaluations will have more bearing on who is retained. Here are some of the changes that are in immediate effect,.
1. Layoffs and Honorable dismissals require a written notice to a teacher at least 45 days before the end of the school term. (This date has already passed for the 2012-13 school year)
2. The School district must categorize all teachers by positions they are qualified to hold, this may include subjects they can teach or other related assignments. For teachers, this may mean that you want to fully disclose all of your endorsements so that you cover as many positions as possible in the event that a reduction in force (RIF) occurs.
3. Administrators will evaluate all teachers and use a rating system: excellent, proficient, needs improvement, and unsatisfactory. Administrators must complete training to do these evaluations, but at this time the nature of the training is unclear.
4. Evaluations will be used to place teachers into one of four groups. Layoffs proceed by groupings.
Group 1 – non-tenured teachers who have not received a performance evaluation
Group 2 – tenured and non-tenured teachers who have received a “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” performance rating on their last two evaluations. Ratings are averaged to determine who is laid off first.
Group 3 – tenured and non-tenured teachers who have received a “satisfactory” or “proficient” performance evaluation on their last two evaluations.
Group 4 – teachers with “excellent” ratings on their last two performance evaluations and those with “excellent” on two of their last three evaluations with the third rating being a “satisfactory” or proficient”.
If the district initiates a RIF, group 1 teachers are the first to be laid off, followed by group 2 and group 3. The last group to be laid off is Group 4. Seniority is used to determine order of layoffs for those that are in group 3 or group 4.
Questions left unanswered or ambiguous
- How will student growth and achievement be measured?
- What is the evaluation process? Will we receive a rubric or assessment criteria in advance?
- How will the district disclose information about who is in which group (no more seniority lists)?
- Will we be able to discuss or negotiate evaluations if we do not agree with an administrator’s assessment?
- Which will take priority: your group number or your job qualifications for various positions? How will “bumping” affect staff?
- How will you be able to check administrative decisions about layoffs? If you receive a layoff notice, can you challenge it, where is the transparency in this process?