I was curious to learn whether the plaintiffs in the Vergara trial actually had “grossly ineffective teachers.” The answer is “no, they did not.”
Not only did none of them have a “grossly ineffective” teacher, but some of the plaintiffs attended schools where there are no tenured teachers. Two of the plaintiffs attend charter schools, where there is no tenure or seniority, and as you will read below, “Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness.
It turns out that the lawyers for the defense checked the records of the plaintiffs’ teachers, and this is what they found (filed as a post-trial brief in the case): (See pp. 5-6).
“Plaintiffs have not established that the statutes have ever caused them any harm or are likely to do so in the future. None of the nine named Plaintiffs established that he or she was assigned to an allegedly grossly ineffective teacher, or that he or she faces any immediate risk of future harm, as a result of the challenged statutes. The record contains no evidence that Plaintiffs Elliott, Liss, Campbell or Martinez were ever assigned a grossly ineffective teacher at all. Of the remaining five Plaintiffs, most of the teachers whom they identified as “bad” or “grossly ineffective” were excellent teachers. Because none of the five Plaintiffs are reliable evaluators of teacher performance, their testimony about the remaining purportedly ineffective teachers should not be credited. Nor could Plaintiffs link their assignment to purportedly “bad” or “grossly ineffective” teachers to the challenged statutes. Not a single witness claimed that any of Plaintiffs’ teachers were granted permanent status because of the two-year probationary period, would have been dismissed in the absence of the dismissal statutes, or would have been laid off had reverse seniority not been a factor in layoffs. Indeed, Plaintiffs did not call any administrator of any of Plaintiffs’ schools to corroborate their testimony or in any way connect the teachers they identified to the statutes they challenge. Furthermore, any threat of future harm to Plaintiffs caused by the challenged statutes is purely speculative. Plaintiffs Elliott and DeBose are high school seniors who will almost certainly graduate in spring 2014. Plaintiffs Monterroza and Martinez both attend charter schools that are not subject to the challenged statutes at all. Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness. As for the remaining three Plaintiffs, there is no concrete, specific evidence supporting any claim that they will be assigned to grossly ineffective teachers due to the challenged statutes; instead, their claims are based on pure speculation.”
One of the plaintiffs (Monterroza) said that her teacher, Christine McLaughlin was a very bad teacher, but McLaughlin was Pasadena teacher of the year and has received many awards for excellent teaching (google her).
Surely, there must be “grossly ineffective” teachers in the state of California, but no evidence was presented that the plaintiffs in the case had teachers who were “grossly ineffective.”
What about turnover of teachers in high-poverty schools in California:
Betty Olson-Jones, former president of the Oakland Education Association, testified: “Oakland has an extremely difficult time retaining teachers. The statistic that I was always struck with was of the beginning teachers in 2003, there were about 300 who began in Oakland, and by 2008 about 76 percent of those left. Generally, the turnover rate is about 50 percent, even higher among some — in some schools. I feel that part of the reason is that the conditions are very difficult, very high-poverty rate in Oakland, lack of support services. Oakland has very few counselors, nurses, one librarian left, high class size, high standard of living in the bay area. Children come with a lot of needs that aren’t fulfilled, and teachers are expected to make up that difference and are agonized often by their inability to do so because they lack the support and the conditions to do so.”
What about working conditions? Anthony Mize taught at the Vergara sisters’ school. He testified: “There was a back-to-school night where there was drive-by shooting 30 to 50 yards from behind my classroom. I remember talking with a mother at the time. And I was just about to say to the mom, ‘and your son has trouble paying attention,’ and seven to nine shots rang out.”
None of this testimony impressed the judge.