Why Effective Teaching is the New Measure of Equity

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The recent ruling on Vergara v. California, in which a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down state laws governing the hiring, dismissal, and job security of teachers, generated a flood of responses. Some called the decision historic and have said it will pave the way to get effective teachers in all classrooms. Others say the case and the decision will make it more difficult to attract and retain good teachers and was no more than an attempt to undermine the profession and teacher unions in particular. As the California Teachers Association wrote, the ruling stripped “teachers of their professional rights” and “hurts our students and our schools.”

But much of the debate about the verdict misses the point. The more important implication of the case and the ruling is that effective teaching matters. The court ruled that educational equity is not just about school funding alone, but about equal access to effective teaching.

As part of the Vergara case, the student plaintiffs claimed teacher-employment laws blocked them from receiving the education guaranteed to them by the state constitution. Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu agreed, writing that the laws protected ineffective teachers who were disproportionately assigned to schools serving poor children and children of color. The most pressing issue highlighted by the Vergara decision is making sure that all teachers are effective.

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