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Former Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa Voices His Support for Plaintiffs; Dr. Chetty Testifies on Long-Term Impact of Ineffective Teachers

Villaraigosa: “This lawsuit…is built on the simple and undeniable premise that every child—regardless of background—deserves a quality education.”
Chetty: “…[H]ighly ineffective teachers substantially reduce students’ earnings.”
Larissa Adam, Principal from Oakland, Testifies
Defendants continue to suggest that teachers have little impact on student learning

Vergara v. California completed its fourth day today with continued testimony from Harvard economist Dr. Raj Chetty and a statement of support from former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

MAV-SM-225x300Mayor Villaraigosa, who served as the Mayor of Los Angeles from 2005 to 2013, joined Plaintiff’s lead co-counsel Marcellus A. McRae during a morning press conference outside of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse to express his support for the nine California public school children who filed the Vergara lawsuit.

“Education is the great equalizer—the most powerful weapon that we have in our arsenal to bridge the social gap—and the foundation on which our communities build our future leaders,” said Villaraigosa. “This lawsuit, Vergara v. California, is built on the simple and undeniable premise that every child—regardless of background—deserves a quality education. And that’s why I stand with these brave students who are standing up for what is right and what is just. Through this case, these young Plaintiffs will bring meaningful and badly needed change to California’s Education Code and create an opportunity to infuse the public school system with fresh, new ideas.”

Testimony by Dr. Raj Chetty

Inside the courtroom, Dr. Raj Chetty—the William Henry Bloomberg Professor of Economics at Harvard University—continued his expert testimony today by discussing the long-term impacts of teacher effectiveness on students. Review the presentation Dr. Chetty delivered during his testimony.

  • “We established yesterday what the value added of a teacher is and that it accurately predicts a teacher’s impact on test scores. … What we show, is that if a child is assigned to a highly effective teacher as measured by their impacts on test scores, it’s not merely that that teacher is effective at teaching to the test and raising student’s performance on tests, but also that that teacher has longer term impacts on outcomes we ultimately care about from education. Like attending college, like earnings, like teen age pregnancy.”
  • “Being subject to a highly ineffective teacher for multiple years in a row would substantially reduce your chances of attending college.”

In response to a question about the potential earning impact for a child who has been taught by an ineffective teacher, Dr. Chetty answered:

  • “My opinion is that highly ineffective teachers substantially reduce students earnings…Over the course of a child’s life, if they’re assigned to a highly ineffective teacher instead of a teacher of average quality, they’re going to lose $50,000 in terms of earnings…If we replace an ineffective teacher with a teacher of average quality the impacts would be on the same order as ending the financial crisis again and again and again, year after year. It would be a dramatic effect on the American economy in the long run.”

Regarding the “Last-in, First-out” teacher layoff statute, Dr. Chetty commented on the statute’s disproportionate impact on students most in need, noting: “My opinion is that seniority-based reductions in force harm minority and low-income students in particular disparately.”

In 2013, Dr. Chetty was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal of the American Economic Association, which is awarded to the best American economist under 40. He is also a 2012 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “Genius Grant”).

Testimony by Larissa Adam, Principal at ASCEND Elementary School

Ms. Larissa Adam, the Principal at ASCEND—an arts-integrated K-8 school associated with Oakland Unified School District that emphasizes family and community partnerships—began her testimony today. Ms. Adam shared her experience dealing with ineffective teachers with seniority who were assigned to her school:

  • “One teacher had absolutely no classroom management. Kids were just running around in there. She had also been out of the classroom for at least 10 years because she had been working at the central office. She and no knowledge of the current California content standards so she didn’t know what she needed to teach. She was not able—despite a lot of support from us—able to independently design a lesson effectively, nor implement a lesson effectively. That is one example. Another priority placement teacher, similarly, was very ineffective in being able to design lessons, implement lessons and also made egregious errors in content for example, during grammar lessons. So, those are just two examples of the type of ineffectiveness that I saw. There was another teacher who was kind of the low levels of mediocre in able (sic), in being able to design a lesson. But, consistently the student learning outcomes in that class were so low that we actually had zero percent of the students in that class performing at proficient after a year in her class.“

In response to a question regarding whether the “Last-in, First-out” teacher layoff statute serves the best interests of students, Ms. Adam responded: “It is does not work in the best interests of students because a teacher’s amount of years in the district does not affect their ability to teach kids.”

Ms. Adam also spoke on the impact of the Dismissal Statutes, and whether she views the statutes as a viable option to dismiss grossly ineffective teachers:

  • “I viewed them as not a realistic option because of what I had seen many, many times in our district. When a teacher was referred for dismissal, a panel would very quickly decide to put them back in the classroom and in the cases where it was successful it took at least five years and thousands and thousands of dollars, and basically would become the full time job of the principal, leaving the principal not able to attend to anything else at school.”

Defendants’ Cross-Examination

During Dr. Chetty’s cross-examination, Defendants, including the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, implied that teachers have little to no impact on students’ educational outcomes.

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Plaintiffs lead co-counsel Marcellus A. McRae stated: “We believe, as Dr. Chetty has testified, that teachers do matter. When students are assigned a highly effective teacher, their long-term gains increase significantly. Conversely, students assigned to a highly ineffective teacher are impacted negatively both in terms of long-term earnings and college preparedness. We must protect great teachers, and most importantly, give every student an opportunity for an effective education.”