A year of sweeping teacher layoffs at schools around the state has exposed a stark reality for California's lowest-performing schools: The schools with the lowest test scores — and traditionally the highest numbers of poor and minority students — tend to be staffed with the least experienced teachers.
Because California law requires that, in a time of layoffs, teachers with least experience in a district are the first to go, this past year of budget slashing has hit the staffs of low-performing schools disproportionately hard. The result: gaping holes in the teacher ranks of some schools, while others in the same districts were left unscathed.
The trend played out in Sacramento County, where teachers at low-performing schools were 60 percent more likely to be laid off this past year than those at higher achieving schools, according to a Bee analysis.
Kadhir Raja, an algebra teacher at Grant High School in Del Paso Heights, saw it firsthand.
One-quarter of the teachers at his school were laid off in May. Raja, 28, has a doctorate in education, has written a book on teaching, is an instructional coach at Grant and was the district's teacher of the year in 2009. Yet he, too, received a layoff notice that was later revoked.
"It's horrible," he said, adding that some of the most passionate teachers at Grant have been cut. "The system should be based on performance."
The situation has caught the attention of Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. He has introduced Senate Bill 1285, which would prohibit districts from laying off teachers at low-performing schools at a higher rate then the district average.
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