Archives for category: California

The Vergara trial is an effort by a wealthy tech entrepreneur to win a judgment that any due process rights for teachers harms the civil rights of minority students.

The defense (the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers) called Harvard professor Susan Moore Johnson to testify. Johnson is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the teaching profession. Plaintiffs’ lawyer attempted to rattle her by asking narrow questions about California law and pointing out that she had studied only one district in California, as though the laws there operate in a vacuum. Here is an account from a corporate reform source.

In contrast, the following was sent by a colleague with access to the trial transcript:

“Diane –

“I wanted to let you know that Susan Moore Johnson testified on Tuesday at the Vergara trial. Her testimony was rock star stuff because of her credentials and I thought it’s worth sharing with you for your blog. The plantiff’s tried to say that she wasn’t very qualified to testify because she had only studied a few districts in California directly in the course of her work on the issues that the trail was about. They also admitted that income inequality, poverty and other issues were at play in high poverty schools but they said those things are irrelevant because they only want to focus on taking away teachers rights. You can see some quotes below.

“In Vergara v. California, evidence won the day. Dr. Susan Moore Johnson took the stand on February 18 and 19, using a lifetime of experience and research to back up her testimony that due process allows teachers to do their best work.

“Some highlights from her testimony:

“Due process allows teachers to do their best work: “It’s essential that the people who work with students, primarily the teachers, are able to do their best work, and that means that the conditions of their work have…to ensure that they have the resources they need, the time they need and the conditions they need to teach well.”

“Better working conditions mean greater student improvement: “When we took the data from the surveys and identified the schools that were rated as very favorable working environments, favorable working environments, unfavorables, and we linked that to student achievement using a student growth measure which is used in the state of Massachusetts, we found that student improvement was greater in schools where teachers reported better working conditions.”

“Laws around tenure, seniority and due process help retain good teachers: “Teachers remain in schools where there are strong and effective principals who deal fairly with them and with students and create environments where they can do their best work. Teachers want to be able to teach effectively, and schools that enable them to do that are schools where they will stay. And that’s regardless of the income level of the school.”

“Interestingly, during her testimony, the plaintiff’s lawyer admitted that there were other factors of inequity at play. He said, “”[T]here are other things that can contribute – like racism, etc. That is not relevant.”

“Bottom line:

“Parents, teachers and students are fed up with the inequities that too often plague our classrooms. Schools are under- and unfairly funded. Classrooms are overcrowded. Segregation is still a reality, decades after Brown v Board of Education. Some kids come to school hungry. Others leave with no home to go to.

“If those who brought this case really cared about making a difference for kids, they’d be working with trachrs and parents to find and implement evidence-based solutions – early childhood education, small classes, project-based learning, wraparound services, professional development, fair funding formulas and more.

“Blaming teachers’ work conditions for the inequities in public education is a misdirected, ideological argument.”

New York officials say they will release confidential student data in July to Rupert Murdoch and Bill Gates’ inBloom, despite parental protests and a futile lawsuit. Why the unseemly rush to give away student information?

Meanwhile a California legislator has introduced a proposal to protect student privacy.

The California law is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg:

“A leading California lawmaker plans to introduce state legislation on Thursday that would shore up privacy and security protections for the personal information of students in elementary through high school, a move that could alter business practices across the nearly $8 billion education technology software industry.

“The bill would prohibit education-related websites, online services and mobile apps for kindergartners through 12th graders from compiling, using or sharing the personal information of those students in California for any reason other than what the school intended or for product maintenance.

“The bill would also prohibit the operators of those services from using or disclosing the information of students in the state for commercial purposes like marketing. It would oblige the firms to encrypt students’ data in transit and at rest, and it would require them to delete a student’s record when it is no longer needed for the purpose the school intended.”

What part of “privacy” do New York officials not understand or care about? Or is their zeal to share a part of the ill-fated Race to the Top project to build a massive data warehouse for vendors?

Teacher John Thompson here brilliantly and cogently dissects the efforts of the Billionaire Boys Club to eliminate due process rights for teachers in California.

This post examines testimony in the infamous Vergara case, where a fabulously wealthy tech entrepreneur has engaged a top legal team to argue that “bad” teachers are causing low test scores. Tom Kane of Harvard and Gates is a star witness for the plaintiffs, and Thompson does a great job of showing that his claims don’t match the evidence. Kane even quotes Campbell’s Law, which warns about the dangers of high-stakes testing. Doesn’t that invalidate the case for the plaintiffs?

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive…

The billionaires no doubt hope that a victory in the Vergara case in a strong union state will provide a national precedent to enable them to destroy teachers’ unions wherever they still exist and to eliminate teachers’ due process rights nationwide, even in non-union states.

This case has nothing to do with improving education or protecting children and everything to do with dismantling the teaching profession and cutting costs.

Ty Alper is a law professor at The University of California in Berkeley, one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools. He is running for school board in Berkeley. As he thought about the challenges of teaching today, he realized that his child’s kindergarten teacher was teaching some of the same skills he was teaching:

“Brook Pessin-Whedbee teaches five-year-olds at Rosa Parks. I teach law students in their mid-20s. As a kindergarten teacher, Brook teaches her students how to collaborate in the telling of stories, so they develop not only oral language and story writing skills but also the ability to form partnerships and work together. As a clinical law professor training and supervising law students in the complex representation of clients facing the death penalty, I teach my students how to collaborate in the telling of stories — stories of our clients’ lives, of unfair trials, of prosecutorial misconduct, etc. Brook and I have the same goals: to improve our students’ oral and written skills, and to teach them what it means to work productively as part of a team.”

He doesn’t think that the work they do can be measured by standardized tests. He is right.

Ty is a graduate of the public schools in Berkeley, so is his wife. Both his parents worked in public schools.

I bet he would be a great addition to the Berkeley school board.

It is amazing how many of the 1% are willing to spend millions to remove due process from teachers, most of whom work harder and earn less than said zillionaire’s secretary or chauffeur.

According to this article by Jennifer Medina in the “New York Times,” David F. Welch is a telecommunications executive who has spent millions to create a group called Students Matter to launch a lawsuit in California intended to strip teachers of due process rights.

John Deasy, the Los Angeles superintendent, testified that the union contract prevents him from firing as many teachers as he would like. Presumably, he would fire thousands of teachers if he could.

Will anyone introduce testimony to demonstrate the allegedly superior education available in states where teachers can be fired at will, as Deasy would prefer?

In many communities, the word “evolution” will not be mentioned in science classes. Books that challenge the mores of anyone in the community will not be taught. If due process ends, so will academic freedom.

Shame on the craven Mr. Welch and his all-star team of lawyers, gunning for teachers.

Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy testified in the trial of the lawsuit claiming that teacher tenure violates the civil rights of students.

The plaintiffs in the Vergara lawsuit want to eliminate due process so it is easier to fire teachers if their students have low test scores.

Most researchers acknowledge that family income and education play a larger role in student test scores than teachers. When the California Teachers Association lawyer Jim Finberg asked Deasy about the role of poverty, this was Deasy’s response:

“When Finberg asked Deasy if he agreed that other factors, such as family wealth and poverty, influence the success or failure of a student, Deasy said, “I believe the statistics correlate, but I don’t believe in causality (of poverty).”

Odd that the gap between haves and have-nots appears on every standardized test. Deasy doesn’t see that poverty might be a causal factor. Like hunger, poor health, homelessness, frequent moves, frequent absemces, economic insecurity, etc., just happen, but don’t cause lower test scores.

What a ridiculous claim!

In a court case in California, a bevy or flock or pride of teacher-bashing organizations argue that teacher tenure violates the civil rights of students. The bevy says that bad teachers hurt students and tenure protects bad teachers.

Maybe next they will sue to eliminate tenure in higher education so everyone is an adjunct.

In higher education, tenure is a guarantee of a lifetime job.

In K-12 education, tenure is a promise of a hearing before they fire you. If a student falsely claims you touched him or her, you are fired without a hearing. If the principal doesn’t like your race, your religion, your face, he or she can fire you without having to say why.

Here is Ted Olsen explaining to the Jeb Bush foundation of rightwing extremists how this case will be a civil rights landmark.

No, it will be one more nail in the coffin of the teaching profession, one more chance to reduce the status of teachers and to increase churn.

Here is what the teachers of the Bay Area say.

“Just when you think that some of the big moneyed, right wing reformers might back off from their unsound, unproven and unrealistic schemes, along comes another one!

“Did you know that because of five sections of the California Education Code YOU have just become the enemy and you are accused of depriving our neediest students of their education?

“Forget about the damage done by unnecessary high stakes testing and fly by night charter schools. Disregard poverty, racism, homelessness, neglect and malnutrition. So what if the schools in California are ranked at the bottom in per pupil funding, class sizes, number of librarians, counselors and nurses in our schools. Not to mention that we have lowered the number of educators by over 30,000, in the California in the last few years.

“Don’t even think about the hard work that you and your colleagues do every day to teach the children of San Francisco under difficult and challenging conditions.

“David F. Welch, CEO of INFINERA, a fiber optics communication company, is the founder of NewSchools Venture Fund. Previously, the fund has invested in charter schools in Boston and worked in “school reform” in New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Oakland. Now he has created “Students Matter,” and hired the law firm of Theodore B. Olsen, Theodore J. Boutrous and Marcellus Antonio Mc Rae, partners in the powerful law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, to sue the state of California.

“In their own words, “The lawsuit seeks to strike down five provisions of the education code that, separately and together, push some of out best teachers out of the classroom and entrench grossly ineffective teachers in our schools….”

“They allege that “California’s schools hire and retain grossly ineffective teachers at alarming rates.”

“In the lawsuit they attack the due process rights that are referred to when you achieve “tenure.” They attack procedures called for when you are accused of misbehavior by a student, a parent or an administrator. They attack seniority when there is a need for lay-offs. And they want “objective evidence of student growth” to be part of evaluations.

“No one in the profession wants educators who are not competent and not doing the job they have been hired to do. No one in the profession wants to see students harmed in any way.

“But, all that tenure really means is that a person must be made aware of the reason they may be in jeopardy of losing their job. Educators should not be “at will” employees who can be fired at the whim of the administration. We do not want the careers of people ruined because they have been falsely accused of misbehavior. The unions seek to protect the rights of employees to know the charges made against them, and the right to defend oneself. That is what is meant by due process.

“The reformers have filed this lawsuit because they have failed to achieve their ends using the democratic political process. The Education Code of California was created by our elected representatives. If the public wants to make changes, there is a democratic process to do that. The people behind this effort have been unsuccessful in doing that and so they have resorted to going to court to push their anti-teacher, anti-union perspective.”

Must be something funny in the water in San Diego. Back in the 1990s, when it was widely seen as one of the best urban districts, the San Diego business community decided it was no good and needed a tough master to bring it to heel. So they hired Border Czar and attorney Alan Bersin as superintendent, and he launched controversial, pedal-to-the-floor reforms that I wrote about in “Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

I visited San Diego a few times since, and on one visit spent a morning in an exemplary elementary school. The principal was Cindy Marten. The district was very proud of her. Justly so, it was a terrific school.

On my next visit, Cindy was suddenly superintendent. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on why I thought San Diego was the best urban district in the nation. I specifically said it was not about test scores, though they are good, but about vision and teamwork.

Of course, this prompted a local journalist to complain that the San Diego schools were awful, awful. What a negative reaction. Imagine if you say to a mother, “That baby of yours is beautiful,” and she yells back, “She is not!” Like people who can’t take yes for an answer.

So an editor at Voices of San Diego, where the snarky article appeared, invited me to respond, and this is what I wrote.

Two parents who fought the takeover of their public school and its conversion to a charter school have been charged with vandalizing the school last June. They deny the charges.

The vandalism occurred at the Desert Trails elementary school in Adelanto, California, which was the site of a bitter battle among parents after the state’s “parent trigger” law was invoked. The school is the first school where the 2010 law led to a charter conversion. The parent trigger law and the conversion process in Adelanto was led by a group called Parent Revolution, funded by the Walton Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation, and the Gates Foundation.

During the battle over the future of the school, parents were divided, lawsuits were filed, and ultimately only 50 parents chose a charter operator for a school of 600 children.

Some lessons:

One, vandalizing a school is wrong, no matter who does it or for what reason. It is criminal. Those who committed this crime must be held accountable.

Two, the parent trigger process is inherently divisive, tearing communities apart, when parents, teachers, and the community should all work together on behalf of the children.

Three, the “parent trigger” is a failed law, created during the Schwarzenegger era to allow charter operators to take over public schools by slick campaigns. Four years after its passage, there is only one school that has been taken over, after a divisive campaign, and there is still no evidence that charter operators can provide better education than properly resourced public schools.

Earlier today, the Rocketship charter chain, known for saving money by putting kids in front of computers and using Teach for America, has withdrawn its proposal to open two charter schools in Morgan Hill, a town of 40,000.

Credit goes to local activists, who organized to support their local public schools.

Meanwhile, Rocketship has targeted Memphis, Milwaukee, and other cities with their special brand of low-budget schooling for poor kids.


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