Campbell Brown: Vergara v. California: Education Reform’s Vital Court Case

Campbell Brown

Campbell Brown

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Nine public school children are suing the California government over state laws that shield inadequate teachers. The case, Vergara v. California, highlights the outrageous performance measures mandated by the state, which essentially forbid schools from evaluating their staff based on competence.

Under California law, teachers may be guaranteed employment for life after only 18 months of teaching. In order to fire a teacher, schools must face a wall of prohibitive bureaucratic hurdles. A “last-in, first-out” law entrenches senior teachers, regardless of whether younger teachers are producing better results. The Daily Beast’s Campbell Brown reports:

The absurdity of that law was driven home when a Teacher of the Year in California was forced out during layoffs because others had more time on the job.

Vergara v. California is about equity. No school should have bad teachers—and the poorest schools, with mostly black and Latino student bodies, have a disproportionate share of them.

A comprehensive, three-year study that measured teacher effectiveness by tracking students’ test scores found that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s black and Latino students are two to three times as likely as their white or Asian peers to be taught by a teacher who rates as lower performing.

California is not the only state pitting students against bad teachers and their protective unions:

In New York City, home to the largest public school system in America, the four-year graduation rate hovers at a dismal 60.4 percent. More distressing: Less than 22 percent of the city’s students graduate college and emerge career ready, and the number drops to 12.2 percent for Hispanics and 11.1 percent for African-Americans.

Despite those statistics, a new teachers’ contract celebrated by political and union leaders offers more frustration. The deal will weaken evaluations of teachers, reduce instructional time, send teachers with disciplinary records back to the classroom, and make it harder to fire a teacher who engages in sexual misconduct with kids.