John Merrow’s take on Vergara

John Merrow’s take is that the Vergara decision was correct, in that the seniority rules, in and of themselves, are indefensible. I recommend reading what he has to say here.


A few paragraphs:

Teacher union foes like Whitney Tilson and RiShawn Biddle could hardly restrain themselves, while union leaders Weingarten, van Roekel and New York City’s United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew complained that the decision diverted attention from social unfairness[5] and then attacked the man behind the lawsuit. Here’s part of Mulgrew’s statement: “What shocks the conscience is the way the judge misread the evidence and the law, and sided with a Silicon Valley millionaire who never taught a day in his life.”[6]

Judge Treu stayed the decision pending appeal and urged the legislature to fix the problems, but how likely is it that the California legislature will act to make earning tenure a more reasonable process, perhaps after three or even four years of teaching, instead of two?

That’s probably not going to happen because the CTA still wields great power. But if California needs a model, New York City’s approach to granting tenure seems to work well, as Chalkbeat explains here.

“Last hired, first fired”–using seniority as the sole factor in layoffs–is as indefensible as 2-year tenure, but it is alsocounter-productive because it alienates young teachers, some of whom are showing their displeasure by declining to support their national and state unions. That’s happened in Modesto, California and Wicomico, Maryland, where local chapters want to disaffiliate with their state association and the NEA itself. In neither case has it been pretty.


You have probably heard of the Vergara decision in CA where a judge ruled that it’s teacher rights to due process mostly or only that are responsible for low achievement among poor, black or brown students. I haven’t written anything original on this, but here is some statistical discussion cited by Diane Ravitch. I also recommend looking at Jersey Jazzman.
Here in DC, teachers have already lost almost all tenure and seniority rights, and well over 90% of the teachers in DCPS and the charter schools were hired and “trained” under the Rhee-Henderson chancellorship regime, or have been already replaced several times over.
So you can’t blame any black-white or income-level achievement gap in DC on us VETERAN teachers and our jobs-for-life, because we either retired or got fired quite some time ago.
But what’s that? Oh, those NAEP results, concerning that achievement gap here in DC?
Well if Judge Treu’s arguments made any sense at all, then with removal of all DC teacher seniority or tenure rights (ditto for principals, too!) then DC should show the greates Gains anywhere in the US on closing that achievement gap.
Well, guess what?
DC — both public and charter — continues to have the VERY LARGEST ACHIEVEMENT GAP IN THE NATION.
The judge is wrong on all of the facts, but the other side had all the money for the best lawyers.
Guy Brandenburg

Sent from my iPhone so full of hilarious errors… ;-€}}
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From: Diane Ravitch’s blog <>
Date: June 13, 2014 at 10:00:27 AM EDT
Subject: [New post] The Statistical Error at the Heart of the Vergara Decision
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New post on Diane Ravitch’s blog

The Statistical Error at the Heart of the Vergara Decision

by dianeravitch

Jordan Weissman, a business correspondent for Slate, read the Vergara decision and noted that the judge’s conclusion hinged on a strange allegation. The judge quoted David Berliner as saying that 1-3% of the teachers in the state were “grossly ineffective.” The judge then calculated that this translated into thousands of teachers, between 2,750 and 8,750, who are “grossly ineffective.”

Weissman called Professor Berliner and asked where the number 1-3% came from. Dr. Berliner said it was a “guesstimate,”

He told Weissman, “It’s not based on any specific data, or any rigorous research about California schools in particular. “I pulled that out of the air,” says Berliner, an emeritus professor of education at Arizona State University. “There’s no data on that. That’s just a ballpark estimate, based on my visiting lots and lots of classrooms.” He also never used the words “grossly ineffective.” And he does not support the judge’s belief that teacher quality can be judged by student test scores.

Dr. Berliner mailed Weissman a copy of the transcript to show that he did not use the term “grossly ineffective.”

Weissman then called Stuart Biegel, a law professor and education expert at UCLA, to ask him “whether he thought that the odd origins of the 1–3 percent figure might undermine Treu’s decision on appeal. Biegel, who represented the winning plaintiffs in one of the key cases Treu cited, said it might. But he thought that the decision’s “poor legal reasoning” and “shaky policy analysis” would be bigger problems. “If 97 to 99 percent of California teachers are effective, you don’t take away basic, hard-won rights from everybody. You focus on strengthening the process for addressing the teachers who are not effective, through strong professional development programs, and, if necessary, a procedure that makes it easier to let go of ineffective teachers,” he wrote to me in an email.”

dianeravitch | June 13, 2014 at 10:00 am | Categories:

Results from an actual randomized study at the USAFA

A very interesting study done at the US Air Force Academy and published here, contradicts most of what Hanushek, Kamras, Rhee et al have said about ‘value-added’ measures of teaching.

Some of its conclusions:

“…our results indicate that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement [that is, who do well at what Rhee and Kamras would call ‘value-added scores’], on average, harm the subsequent performance of their students in more advanced classes.

“Academic rank, teaching experience, and terminal degree status of professors are negatively correlated with contemporaneous value-added but positively correlated with follow-on course value-added. Hence, students of less experienced instructors who do not possess a doctorate perform significantly better in the contemporaneous course but perform worse in the follow-on related curriculum.

“Student evaluations are positively correlated with contemporaneous professor value-added and negatively correlated with follow-on student achievement. That is, students appear to reward higher grades in the introductory course but punish professors who increase deep learning (introductory course professor value-added in follow-on courses). Since many U.S. colleges and universities use student evaluations as a measurement of teaching quality for academic promotion and tenure decisions, this latter finding draws into question the value and accuracy of this practice.

“Similar to elementary and secondaryschool teachers, who often have advance knowledge of assessmentcontent in high-stakes testing systems, all professors teaching a given course at USAFA have an advance copy of the exam before it is given. Hence, educators in both settings must choose how much time to allocate to tasks that have great value for raising current scores but may have little value for lasting knowledge.

“Using our various measures of quality to rank-order professors leads to profoundly different results.”

“the correlation between introductory calculus professor value-added in the introductory and follow-on courses is negative, r=-0.68. Students appear to reward contemporaneous course value-added, r=+0.36, but punish deep learning, r=-0.31.”

(In other words, one method of measuring professor quality will rank them in one way, but if you use a different method of measuring professor quality, you get a ranking that is profoundly different.)

In this study, students and instructors were randomly assigned to all of the courses, and students had to take follow-up courses in, say, calculus and chemistry, regardless of how much they liked the subject or not, or how well they did in their previous course. Thus, once they were at the Air Force Academy, there was no self-selection by professors or by students. This eliminated an element that probably confounds prior studies.


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