California Superior Court rejects efforts to tie teacher evaluations to test scores

September 20, 2016

David Welch speaks after Judge Rolf Treu issued his 2014 decision in the Vergara lawsuit.

In another defeat for Students Matter, an advocacy organization challenging a range of employment laws affecting teachers, a California Superior Court judge has ruled against the group’s efforts to force districts to use student test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Students Matter last year filed the Doe vs. Antioch  lawsuit against 13 California school districts, including Antioch Unified School District in the San Francisco Bay Area, saying that the districts were in violation of the state’s little known Stull Act which suggests that a teacher’s performance should be evaluated at least in part based on their students’ test scores.

Based on the 1971 law, the  relevant clause in the state’s Education Code Section 44662 states the following:

The governing board of each school district shall evaluate and assess certificated employee performance as it reasonably relates to the progress of pupils toward the standards expected of pupil achievement at each grade level in each area of study, and if applicable, (toward) the state adopted academic content standards as measured by state adopted criterion referenced assessments.

But in a 40-page ruling issued Monday, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode disagreed, saying that the language in the law is “not crystalline,” and gives districts considerable discretion in how to apply these provisions in the education code.

Goode also wrote:

It does not say (as Petitioners might prefer) “each school district shall assess each teacher, in part, based on the scores his or her pupils achieve on state adopted criterion referenced assessments.” Nor does it say (as Respondents might prefer) “each school district shall assess each teacher, in part, based on how he or she uses the scores of his or her pupils on state adopted criterion referenced assessments.”  The Court finds that the statute is not “clear and unambiguous.”

Goode stated that “the Legislature endorses many uses of tests, including evaluating pupils, entire schools and local education agencies. But it does not say the results should be used to evaluate individual teachers.  That omission is relevant.”

Marcellus McRae and Joshua S. Lipshutz, the lead attorneys for the Doe v. Antioch petitioners, which included both California teachers and parents, issued a statement blasting Goode’s ruling. “A teacher evaluation that ignores student learning is a farce that serves neither students nor teachers,” they declared. “The decision ignores this basic and indisputable logic and renders the Stull Act meaningless.”

This is the the second legal defeat Students Matter, a nonprofit organization founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, has suffered in recent weeks.

A month ago, the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to a lower court ruling rejecting its claims in the Vergara vs. California lawsuit that teacher tenure and other employment protections violated California’s constitution by disproportionately imposing ineffective teachers on poor and minority students.

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