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State’s Expert Witness Agrees That Effective Teachers Are The Nation’s Most Unequally Distributed Educational Resource

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond: “[I]n each case where [teacher incompetence] is left unaddressed, it undermines public confidence and harms hundreds of students.”

State Defendants and Intervenors called Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond to the stand today as an expert witness in the education equality trial, Vergara v. California.

Dr. Darling-Hammond, a Professor of Education at Stanford University and Chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, testified during her direct examination about teacher evaluation practices, remediation programs for ineffective teachers, and the “significant negative impact” of high teacher turnover on student achievement.

During cross-examination, Plaintiffs questioned Dr. Darling-Hammond about a declaration that she signed in support of the plaintiffs in Reed v. California, a 2010 lawsuit that sought to protect low-income students in the Los Angeles Unified School District from seniority-based layoffs.  In her declaration, which can be viewed on the Evidence page of the Students Matter website, Dr. Darling-Hammond makes the following statements:

  • “California’s public education system is ineffective, and ranks nationally among the bottom states in average reading and mathematics achievement.”
  • “The performance of low-income students has been especially hard hit by the decline in school quality in California.”
  • “California has failed, and is failing, to provide equal educational opportunities to all of its public schools students, primarily failing poor and minority students.”
  • “The quality of teachers available to students is a critical element in the provision of educational opportunity.”

During cross-examination, Dr. Darling-Hammond agreed with Plaintiffs that effective teachers are inequitably distributed in California and that school districts should dismiss ineffective teachers because they cause students substantial harm.  Moreover, she agreed with each of the following statements:

  • Despite growing evidence that expert teachers are critical to educational achievement, effective teachers are the most unequally distributed educational resource in the country;
  • [E]ach case where [teacher incompetence] is left unaddressed . . . undermines public confidence and harms hundreds of students;
  • A student who is assigned to an incompetent teacher for even one year could suffer harm for the rest of his or her life;
  • Much of the difference in school achievement found between African American students and other students is due to the effects of substantially different school opportunities;
  • When highly ineffective teachers are removed and more effective teachers are put in place, student achievement can improve;
  • To support tenure is not to advocate job security for incompetent teachers;
  • There may be other ways to serve the interests of preserving competent teachers than the processes contained in the current dismissal statutes;
  • Tenure should not be granted without evidence of a teacher’s competence;
  • Holding a teaching credential does not make a teacher effective;
  • The system for granting tenure breaks down when there is a failure to develop evidence of competence;
  • A probationary period of three years would serve the exact same interests for teachers as the current probationary period of 18 months;
  • High teacher turnover negatively affects students and can be caused by reductions in force; and
  • Low-income students tend to have less experienced teachers than other students.

dr linda