The state's two largest teachers unions joined the case as defendants through a Motion to Intervene, granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court on May 2, 2013.
Letting Our Teachers Flourish
â€śThere is no system in the world thatâ€™s better than its teachers.â€ť When educators are nourished with a sense of possibility, a culture of high expectations and opportunities for innovation, schools will flourish. Thatâ€™s one of the main takeaways from this must-watch talk by Ken Robinson that was presented at the TED Talks Education summit earlier this month.
According to a survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, 82% of respondents are concerned that schools in lower-income areas have a shortage of good teachers compared to schools in wealthier areas.
Our Case | FAQ
- What is Students Matter?
- Why the focus on effective teachers?
- What do you propose to do?
- How are those statutes hindering teacher effectiveness?
- What happens to ineffective teachers currently?
- Why a legal challenge as opposed to legislation or an initiative?
- What remedy are you seeking?
- Who are your plaintiffs?
- What effect do you think removal of the statutes will have on student achievement?
- How do you define/measure teacher effectiveness?
- How does California compare nationally regarding efforts to improve teacher effectiveness?
- Who is funding the effort?
For more information, feel free to contact us.
What is Students Matter?
Students Matter is a is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education.Back to Top
Why the focus on effective teachers?
When it comes to education quality, numerous studies show that teachers have the greatest impact on student achievement. Teacher competence is the â€śsingle biggest factor influencing gains in achievement, trumping race, poverty, parentâ€™s education, and all other excuses for a childâ€™s failure to learn.â€ť In a single school year, highly effective teachers can leave their students a full grade level ahead of students taught by ineffective teachers.
Teacher effectiveness has also been directly correlated to long-term student outcomes. For example, a 20-year study of 2.5 million children in grades 3 through 8, released in January 2012, demonstrates that teacher effectiveness is directly linked to college attendance, earnings, and retirement savings.Back to Top
What do you propose to do?
The California Constitution protects the fundamental right of all California students to a quality education. We are challenging laws in the Education Code that have hindered the recruitment, support and retention of the most effective teachers. These laws relate to:
- The guarantee of â€śpermanent employmentâ€ť after only minimal and cursory reviews;
- Bureaucratic procedures that make it prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to dismiss ineffective teachers; and
- â€śLast-In First-Outâ€ť (LIFO) seniority-based layoffs that ignore teacher effectiveness.
Our mission is to help improve student achievement in the State by enhancing the overall teaching environment. We are challenging a system that was fashioned by political leaders and has burdened our schools with an inflexible environment for hiring and retaining the best teachers.Back to Top
How are those statutes hindering teacher effectiveness?
The inflexibility and extremity of these statutes are hindering our ability to put the best teachers in our classrooms, and are out of step with the way the rest of the nation is moving forward in evaluating teacher effectiveness.
Studies have shown that it is not possible to determine a teacherâ€™s long-term effectiveness with any degree of confidence during the first three years of teaching. Nonetheless, because of the Permanent Employment statute, California offers more than 98% of new teachers the full benefits of permanent employment within the first 18 months of teaching.
The Dismissal statutes mandate that more than a dozen hurdles be cleared before a district can dismiss an ineffective teacher, making it a very long, difficult and prohibitively expensive process. Less than .002% of Californiaâ€™s hundreds of thousands of teachers are dismissed for unsatisfactory performance in any given year. This compares to 1% of other California public employees dismissed annually for unsatisfactory performance and the 8% of private employees dismissed annually for cause.
The â€śLIFOâ€ť statute mandates that the selection of teachers to be included in any layoff be governed solely by seniority. Yet studies prove that years of experience is not an accurate predictor of teacher effectiveness. Due to LIFO, quality teachers are often laid off at the expense of more experienced, but less effective, teachers.Back to Top
What happens to ineffective teachers currently?
The unfortunate reality is that ineffective teachers are being left in the system and continue to teach California students year after year. For instance, a Los Angeles Weekly 2010 investigation revealed that 66 teachers are being continually recycled through a costly mentoring and retraining program, but failing to improve, and another 400 anonymous teachers have been ordered to attend the retraining. The same investigation also showed that 32 underperforming teachers recommended for firing were secretly paid $50,000 each by LAUSD to leave without a fight. A one-time school board president also described a practice of â€śquietly transferring bad teachers to other, unsuspecting schools.â€ť This is happening in every school district throughout the state and our children suffer the consequences.Back to Top
Why a legal challenge as opposed to legislation or an initiative?
On this issue, which involves the violation of fundamental, Constitutional rights, the judicial system is the only path forward. In a court of law, where facts matter, special interests are less likely to succeed in clouding or manipulating the process.Back to Top
What remedy are you seeking?
We are asking the judge to declare the statutes at issue unconstitutional and no longer applicable. We are also asking the judge to ensure that, in the future, school administrators will have the flexibility to take teacher effectiveness into account when making employment decisions about teachers.Back to Top
Who are your plaintiffs?
Our plaintiffs are California students. These students range in age, ethnicity and economic background, but all share similar sub-par experiences with the current public education system that demonstrate an urgent need for reform.Back to Top
What effect do you think removal of the statutes will have on student achievement?
Without those statutes, each school district will be able to engage all relevant stakeholders including parents, administrators, teachers, students and the unions to establish clear and appropriate policies for teacher evaluations, incentives, promotions, and dismissals in their district. By removing these entrenched statutes, outstanding teachers will be better supported with policies that recognize and reward their effectiveness.Back to Top
How do you define/measure teacher effectiveness?
Individual school districts should be empowered to conduct legitimate and meaningful evaluations and we defer to the experts on how best to do that. According to a Los Angeles Times interview with an LAUSD instructor, the current evaluation system is â€śso lacking in rigor as to be meaningless.â€ť In an investigation of the LAUSDâ€™s evaluation process, the Los Angeles Times found that administrators are only required to conduct one pre-announced classroom observation per year, often lasting less than a half-hour. The same investigation discovered that 98% of probationary teachers were awarded tenure, based on the most recent district data. When 98% are passing the test, something is wrong with the test.Back to Top
How does California compare nationally regarding efforts to improve teacher effectiveness?
As recently as October 2011, the National Council on Teacher Quality published an examination of states showing a national trend towards improving teacher effectiveness by strengthening teacher evaluations. In just a short time span from 2009 to 2011, 23 states have started designing teacher evaluation standards that require objective evidence of student growth. California is not on that list. In fact, California has made no meaningful changes to improve teacher effectiveness. Other states are acknowledging the changes that need to be made to reform their ailing systems by emphasizing the importance of teacher effectiveness, and California needs to join them.Back to Top
Who is funding the effort?
Students Matter is funded entirely through private donations, both from private individuals and foundations. No state funds are being used.Back to Top