Ensuring Equitable Access to High Quality Teaching: Human Capital in San José

Policy Context for Human Capital Reform

Felton, E. (2016, April 14). Breaking: Vergara ruling overturned by state appeals court [Web log]. Available at http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2016/04/breaking_vergara_ruling_overtu.html

A California appeals court reversed a trial court’s ruling on the Vergara case in April 2016, stating that plaintiffs failed to prove that current job-protection laws for teachers are causing certain groups of students to receive an inferior education to others. The panel of three judges ruled that while the job-protection laws may lead to employment and retention of bad teachers, there was no evidence these statutes increased the likelihood that specific groups of students would by taught by ineffective teachers more than any other group. The court did note that plaintiffs successfully highlighted some inequitable practices regarding tenure and seniority protections, but placed the blame on district administrators—and not state law— for their counterproductive hiring and placement practices.

TNTP. (2014). Rebalancing teacher tenure: A post-Vergara guide for policymakers. Available at http://tntp.org/assets/documents/TNTP_RebalancingTenure_2014.pdf

According to this TNTP guide, the original Vergara ruling from June 2014 sheds light on how existing laws support job protection for teachers and make it virtually impossible for districts to replace low-performing ones. The guide advocates for a shift towards rebalancing teacher tenure policies to not only improve students’ education, but strengthen the teaching profession by putting to rest concerns that it tolerates poor performance. To do this, TNTP identifies eight elements of a balanced teacher tenure system: (1) lengthening the tryout period; (2) only awarding tenure to teachers making consistent academic progress; (3) making tenure revocable if teachers continuously receive poor evaluations; (4) considering student interests when holding a dismissal hearing; (5) shortening the appeals hearing process; (6) hiring independent arbitrators for appeals hearings; (7) eliminating second chances for teachers found guilty of abuse or sexual misconduct of students; (8) and relaxing the revocation of teacher licenses for dismissed teachers.

California Teachers Association (2005). Myths about due process [Webpage]. Available at http://www.cta.org/en/Issues-and-Action/Education-Improvement/Due-Process/Myths.aspx

This document aims to address misconceptions about tenure and ensuring a teacher receives a fair due process if dismissed from a California school district. According to the author, California dismissal law outlines the processes and procedures of ensuring a teacher’s due process rights; there is no mention of tenure. The author suggests that challenges in dismissing teachers result from administrators improperly apply the law, and that teachers need these protections to ensure that dismissal decisions are based on sound, fair reasons. Despite what some stakeholders may believe, the author maintains that due process is needed to protect high quality teachers, not those that need improvement. With strong teacher evaluation systems and appropriate use of dismissal law, due process can facilitate keeping high quality teachers in California.

**Sandoval, A. (2015). Student progress ignored: An examination of California school districts’ compliance with the Stull Act. Sacramento, CA: EdVoice Institute. Available at http://edvoice.org/sites/default/files/STUDENT%20PROGRESS%20IGNORED.pdf

This study examines whether the evaluation systems of 26 California school districts complied with the Stull Act, a policy that defines the state’s requirements for teacher evaluation. Researchers examined both blank and completed evaluation forms from the selected districts, as well as the districts’ contracts with their teachers, to determine whether these systems included measures of student progress as one component of evaluating a teacher’s effectiveness. Researchers found that, of the 26 school districts in the study, nineteen districts’ blank evaluation forms did not explicitly contain an area for discussion of student progress and only 10 districts’ contracts mentioned including student progress in teacher evaluations. For a second component of the study, researchers were only able to obtain completed evaluation forms in eight of the 26 school districts. In these eight districts, 263 of the 1,947 forms researchers obtained made reference to student progress. The authors advocate for the state to strengthen its compliance with the Stull Act and suggest using other policy levers, such as the Local Control Funding Formula and Education Code, to further promote reform.

Blume, H. (2015, July 16). Group sues 13 school districts for not using test scores in teacher evaluations. Los Angeles Times. Available at http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-suit-teacher-evaluations-20150716-story.html

This article provides background on lawsuits that Students Matter has filed against thirteen California school districts for not complying with the Stull Act, which outlines the state’s guidelines for teacher evaluation. The suits allege district noncompliance with one requirement of the Stull Act: Teacher evaluation systems must use measures of student progress (e.g. student achievement data, test scores) as one component of a teacher’s overall effectiveness rating. Many districts in California have ignored the requirements of the Stull Act for years. While some stakeholders hope that the lawsuits will catalyze state-wide improvements in teacher effectiveness, others are skeptical that including measures of student progress in teacher evaluation is an accurate and fair measure of effectiveness.

**This document is considered a priority reading.