Judge confirms Vergara ruling

The judge in Vergara vs. California has finalized his June ruling that state laws on teacher employment — including seniority-based layoffs and tenure — deny disadvantaged students access to a quality public education.

In his final ruling, filed yesterday, Judge Rolf Treu, said, “plaintiffs have met their burden of proof on all issues presented.”

The state and its two largest teachers unions have 60 days to appeal. The unions will file, but the state of California may not.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t taken a stand yet on the Vergara ruling overthrowing teacher protection laws.

California Democrats have avoided comment while awaiting Treu’s final decision, writes Chris Reed on Fox & Hounds.

Gov. Jerry Brown is cruising to re-election against a little-known opponent. He could go for a place in history by admitting that “teachers unions are bad for minorities,” writes Reed.

State Superintendent Tom Torklakson — a named defendant in the suit — is facing a tough fight against reformer Marshall Tuck, who’s been endorsed by all the major newspapers in the state.  Tuck has called on Torlakson not to appeal the ruling.

Torlakson will stick with his “greatest patron during his political rise — the California Teachers Association,” predicts Reed.

From a U to a J

California charters are more likely to be outperforming traditional public schools, concludes a report on the last five years by the California Charter Schools Association.

Two years ago, the graph of charter school scores was U-shaped: 21 percent of California charters ranked in the top 10 percent in the state and 21 percent ranked in the lowest 10 percent.

It’s now more of a J with more high-performing charters on the right and fewer low performers on the left, writes Jed Wallace, president of the CCSA.

Students at charter schools serving low-income populations are far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in a school that is among the top five or ten percent of all public schools statewide.

More than half of the students (52 percent) attending charters serving a majority high poverty population attend charter schools that are in the top quartile of all public schools statewide, compared to only 26 percent of similar students attending traditional public schools.

The only charters that underperform are those that serve predominantly advantaged students. That matches national trends. Perhaps it’s because urban charters are more likely to follow the “no excuses” model, while suburban charters are more likely to provide a progressive alternative.

California: CCs plan huge growth

California community colleges have set ambitious goals for improving completion rates and increasing the number of certificates, degrees and transfers.

California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

As early as next year, some California community colleges  will start offering four-year degrees in technical and vocational fields, if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state Legislature Thursday.

Some employers now demand four-year degrees even in fields such as dental hygiene and auto mechanics, said the state’s community college chancellor.

Checking out of the Hotel California

A California teachers’ union leader thinks membership will become voluntary — and is OK with that — writes Larry Sand in Checking Out of the Hotel California.

Intercepts has posted “declassified” California Teachers Association strategy documents. Doug Tuthill, a former union leader, urges the CTA to prepare for the courts to invalidate “fair share,” mandatory dues for all teachers, in Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.

Tuthill suggests ways to persuade teachers that it’s in their interest to join the union, notes Sand. Teachers could adopt the model of the “two most effective unions” in the U.S.,  the National Rifle Association and the AARP.

Unlike today’s teachers unions, the NRA and AARP do not require their members to be part of a centralized bureaucracy. Their members are united by common values and interests, not by location. An NRA-AARP type teachers union would be able to advocate for teachers working in a variety of settings, including museums, libraries, district schools, virtual schools, art galleries, charter schools, homeschools, tutoring businesses, private schools, YWCAs, and Boys and Girls Clubs. The work setting would be irrelevant, just as where NRA and AARP members work — or where American Bar Association lawyers and American Medical Association doctors work — is irrelevant.

A former classroom teacher, Sand is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. 

Anti-vaxxers attack student documentary

Our society is “under-vaccinated,” argues Invisible Threat, a film made by broadcasting students at Carlsbad High near San Diego. It was completed more than a year ago, but anti-vaccine activists raised such a furor that few have seen the film, reports the Los Angeles Times. 

The high school’s PTA canceled an on-campus screening in May, fearing a protest.

Some of the students initially believed vaccines and autism were linked, they told the LA Times. As they researched the issue, they changed their minds.  “It was all social controversy. There was no science controversy,” said Allison DeGour, who will be a senior this fall.

Here’s a free trailer:

California’s whooping cough epidemic is escalating.

Affluent parents are the most likely to put their children — and others — at risk by avoiding vaccination. Latinos have high vaccination rates and less whooping cough, apparently because they tend to trust doctors’ advice.

2-year degree takes 4 years

A “two-year” degree typically takes more than four years in California. Furthermore, associate-degree graduates earn a median of 78 credits — well over the 60 required — raising costs and taking up community college seats.

After Vergara, will tenure survive?

While he supports the Vergara verdict, Rick Hess doubts the courts can order higher quality of schools.

California’s employment laws have made it ridiculously tough on school systems to do anything about lousy teachers. There are 275,000 teachers in California. Even if just one to three percent of teachers are lousy, as defense expert David Berliner estimated, one would expect 3,000 to 8,000 teachers to be dismissed each year for unsatisfactory performance. Instead, the average is just 2.2. Meanwhile, Los Angeles superintendent John Deasy testified that it costs his school system between $250,000 and $450,000 to remove just one tenured teacher for poor performance.

The unions have  “used the courts to protect generous benefits, challenge layoffs, attack school choice, and force states to spend more on K-12,” writes Hess. Now they’ve discovered the virtues of judicial restraint.

However, “courts have a long history of failing to weigh costs and benefits and imposing requirements that prove bureaucratic and unworkable,” writes Hess.

 Indeed, if courts can order legislatures to abolish tenure, what else might they require? If plaintiffs pick the right judge and present the right experts, can they get judges to require that pre-K teachers need to have an education school teaching credential? Can judges order schools to adopt the Common Core, if they think that will help ensure that all students are held to an equal standard? Can judges order legislators to double teacher pay, if that’s what they think it’ll take to ensure that all students have a chance to learn?

If the decision holds up on appeal, California legislators will write new education laws they hope will satisfy the judge. They’re likely to lessen, but not eliminate, barriers to dismissing ineffective teachers, predicts Eric Hanushek.

Students Matter, which brought the lawsuit, hopes to challenge tenure laws in other states, such as New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon, reports Time.

“This is gay marriage,” said Terry Mazany, who served as interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools from 2010-2011. “Without a doubt, this could happen in other states.”

Union leaders had to know that California’s tenure and LIFO (last in first out) laws were “indefensible,” writes John Merrow. Young teachers — and more of the teaching force is young —  pay the price when layoffs are strictly by seniority, he adds.

Faster is better

More than 70 percent of California’s entering community college students are unprepared for college work. Accelerating remediation is helping students pass college-level courses, but only a few students have access to accelerated courses.

California judge strikes down tenure, layoff laws

Beatriz Vergara testifies in Vergara v. California

California’s laws on teacher tenure, layoffs and dismissal are unconstitutional, a Los Angeles trial judge has ruled. Low-income and minority students don’t have equal access to competent teachers argued Students Matter, which sued on behalf of nine schoolchildren.

The evidence “shocks the conscience,” wrote Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu in the Vergara v. California decision. “There is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.”

Enforced will be delayed pending an appeal by the lawsuit’s defendants, the state and California’s two major teachers unions.

Plaintiffs alleged that schools serving poor students have more teachers with less seniority, and therefore are more likely to lose teachers during seniority-based layoffs. As a result, those schools suffer from higher turnover and more inexperienced and ineffective teachers.

The suit also challenged the state requirement that school districts make decisions on tenure after a teacher has had about 18 months on the job — thus denying districts adequate time to determine a teacher’s competence.

Moreover, because of cumbersome dismissal procedures, Students Matter said, in 10 years only 91 of California’s teachers, who now number 285,000, have been fired, most for inappropriate conduct. And, the group noted that only 19 were dismissed for unsatisfactory performance.

The unions called the lawsuit a threat to due process, such as the right to a pre-dismissal hearing, and to protections from arbitrary or unfair administrators.

Union spokesman Fred Glass said, “The millionaires behind this case have successfully diverted attention from the real problems of public education.” That’s a reference to Dave Welch, co-founder of a telecom company, who’s the primary founder of Students Matter.

Education Trust hailed the decision. “The decision will force California to address the reality that our most vulnerable students are less likely to have access to effective teachers.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the decision a mandate for change.

For students in California and every other state, equal opportunities for learning must include the equal opportunity to be taught by a great teacher. The students who brought this lawsuit are, unfortunately, just nine out of millions of young people in America who are disadvantaged by laws, practices and systems that fail to identify and support our best teachers and match them with our neediest students.

He hopes for a “collaborative process” — a deal, not an appeal — to write new laws that “protect students’ rights to equal educational opportunities while providing teachers the support, respect and rewarding careers they deserve.”

Vergara equals victory for kids, writes RiShawn Biddle on Dropout Nation.