Vergara v California: Expert Witness Weighs In
The lawsuit, Vergara v California, “has been brought on by students who are challenging state laws that they contend protect ineffective teachers. They say the laws deny students their constitutionally protected right to a quality education.” One of the laws in question provides tenure to teachers after 18 months. Three of the laws deal with the high cost and slow process of firing teachers and the last is a law known as the “Last in, first out”, which forces the favor towards seniority instead of quality when layoffs are needed.
The defendants are the state of California including Governor Jerry Brown, Superintendent of Public Education, Tom Torlakson and two teachers unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers.
The president of the California Federation of Teachers, Josh Pechthalt, spoke out saying “the lawsuit is without merit. It ignores the real problems of education and demonizes teachers and teachers unions for the perceived problems of public education” adding that if successful, the suit would make it “more difficult to attract and retain teachers.”
Theodore J. Boutrous, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said that
the system is dysfunctional and arbitrary. Outdated laws handcuff school administrators from operating in a fashion that protects school children and their rights to equality of education.
The defendants have made three attempts to have the case dismissed and were unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, the expert witness, Raj Chetty, took the stand. He is a Harvard professor and a well known expert in public policy economics. He offered testimony that supported the plaintiffs – the quality of a teacher directly impacts students’ achievements and the current seniority statuses have an unfair impact on minority and low income students. He explained that teacher effectiveness can be measured.
One of the main points on the plaintiff’s side is that California tenure laws “do not provide adequate time to determine a teacher’s effectiveness.” Chetty agreed that 18 months is insufficient and harmful to students.
Driving his point home, Chetty provided graphs from his own research that showed how students test scores are directly impacted with either an effective or ineffective teacher. He added that his research takes into account other external factors that might play a role, but quickly noted that nothing “predicts future success more than effective teachers.”
As John Deasy, Superintendent of LA Unified, finished his testimony on Wednesday, after three days on the witness stand, he was questioned as to whether these laws “prevent LA Unified from assigning more experienced teachers to high poverty areas when vacancies are available.” When asked specifically if a “grossly ineffective teacher was ever intentionally assigned to a high poverty school”, he said “regrettably, yes.”
Source: LA School Report