The distinguished education researcher David Berliner testified yesterday at the Vergara trial in Los Angeles. The issue is whether teachers should be permitted to have tenure; the plaintiffs say that job protections for teachers deny the civil rights of children. Last week, the teacher of the lead plaintiff testified; he does not have tenure. He has never had disciplinary proceedings or any negative evaluations. The case seems ludicrous on its face since Vergara’s teacher, who allegedly violated her civil rights, has never had tenure.

This is what David Berliner said, according to a source who was in the courtroom (I have no link; if I can get Berliner’s testimony in full, I will post it):

Yesterday, David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Education at Arizona State University, took the stand. He spoke at length about the out-of-school factors that impact in-school performance. He said,

“The public and politicians and parents overrate the in-school effects on their children and underrate the power of out-of-school effects on their children.” He noted that in-school factors account for just 20 percent of the variation we see in student achievement scores.

He also discussed value-added models and the problems with solely relying on these models for teacher evaluation. He said,

“My experience is that teachers affect students incredibly. Probably everyone in this room has been affected by a teacher personally. But the effect of the teacher on the score, which is what’s used in VAM’s, or the school scores, which is used for evaluation by the Feds — those effects are rarely under the teacher’s control…Those effects are more often caused by or related to peer-group composition…”