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State Employee Agrees That Poor Students Are Far More Likely Than Their Peers To Be Taught By Ineffective Teachers

Plaintiffs continued the cross-examination of Lynda Nichols in the education equality trial, Vergara v. California.  State Defendants and Intervenors also called Dr. Ken Futernick, Mr. James Webb, and Ms. Vivian Ekchian to the stand.

During cross-examination, Ms. Nichols, an education consultant employed by the California Department of Education, testified that it is “unlikely” that all teachers who are credentialed are effective.  She further testified that teacher tenure decisions should not be made until after the completion of the two-year “new teacher” professional development program—something that is impossible under the Permanent Employment Statute.  Finally, Ms. Nichols testified that “the most vulnerable students, those attending high-poverty, low performing schools, are far more likely than their wealthier peers to attend schools having a disproportionate number of ineffective teachers.”

Students Matter advisory board member and former head of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali, discussed the disproportionate impact of California’s tenure, dismissal and layoff laws on low-income African American and Latino students in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle.


State Defendants and Intervenors’ next witness, Dr. Futernick, is a professor of education at the Center for Teacher Quality at California State University, Sacramento. Dr. Futernick testified about teacher turnover in high poverty and high minority schools. During cross-examination, Dr. Futernick agreed that:

  • Improving teacher quality is most important thing we can do to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.
  • It is possible to measure teacher effectiveness, and growth in student achievement is one of the factors used in measuring teacher effectiveness.
  • There are incompetent teachers in schools, as well as teachers who have lost the will to teach and help students, and teachers who entered the wrong profession.
  • If ineffective teachers do not improve, they should be dismissed.
  • Teacher turnover harms students, and one of the causes of teacher turnover is district-wide reductions-in-force.
  • It is possible both for a misassigned teacher to be effective and for a correctly assigned teacher to be ineffective.

Defendants and Intervenors’ third witness, Mr. Webb, is a consulting teacher in Hart Union High School District who evaluates the performance of teachers in the district. During cross-examination, Mr. Webb confirmed that less than 2 teachers per year, on average, have successfully exited the district’s teacher remediation program, even though the district employs approximately 1,100 teachers.

The last witness of the day, Ms. Ekchian, is the Chief Labor Negotiator for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Intervenors called Ms. Ekchian to the stand with the apparent goal of impeaching previous testimony by Plaintiffs’ witness, Mr. Nicholas Melvoin, who was laid off from Markham Middle School as a result of the “Last-In, First-Out” layoff statute. But Intervenors have thus far failed to impeach any of Mr. Melvoin’s testimony. Due to scheduling conflicts, Ms. Ekchian is expected to return to the stand on Friday.