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Report urges moderation on issues raised in Vergara ruling

Craig Clough | May 28, 2015

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ecsFew topics in California education are as polarizing as the Vergara case, one of the most prominent battlegrounds for the reform vs. status quo wars.

The ruling by a California Superior Court Judge last year wiped out job protection laws for teachers when it comes to layoffs, tenure and dismissals, but a new report and analysis on the case from the non-partisan Education Commission of the States urges moderation and says the answer to problems with teacher job protections lies somewhere in the middle.

“Retaining current tenure laws or eliminating protections altogether represent two extremes. There may be a middle ground that states want to consider,” the report, “Vergara and the complexities of teacher employment policies,” concluded.

Funded by the reform group, Students Matter, the Vergara case saw nine students successfully sue the state and California’s two largest teacher unions, the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. The students argued that current job protection laws deprived them of a quality education because they do not ensure the most effective teachers end up in the classroom.



Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, but the case is currently under appeal and a ruling is not expected until next year.

The Education Commission of the States is a non-partisan organization supported by the states and US territories it serves. Its mission is to “track state policy trends, translate academic research, provide unbiased advice and create opportunities for state leaders to learn from one another,” according to its website.

In its analysis of the Vergara ruling, the report recommends moderation as states contemplate teacher employment protections. Among its recommendations:

  • Schools must ensure that teacher training and credentialing are rigorous and must show evidence of providing adequate support.
  • Model changes on top training and credentialing programs, such as those used by Cincinnati public schools and Montgomery County (Md.) public schools.
  • Teacher evaluation systems should have buy-in from teachers and administrators and use multiple measures.
  • States should provide suitable time for tenure to be determined. California is one of only four states that allow tenure to be awarded after two years. By far the most popular probationary period length is three years, which is the policy in 32 states.
  • Effective teachers should be rewarded by additional job protections.

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