FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2015
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School Districts in Doe v. Antioch Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit Refuse to Comply with California Law
Plaintiffs’ Opening Brief Shows Defendant School Districts Have Acknowledged Their Teacher Evaluation Procedures Are Unlawful, But Still Fail to Comply with the Stull Act
LOS ANGELES – Today, the Plaintiffs in Doe, et al. v. Antioch Unified School District, et. al. (“Doe v. Antioch”) announced the filing of the opening brief in support of their Petition for Writ of Mandate, which seeks to compel thirteen California school districts to comply with the state’s long-standing teacher evaluation law, the Stull Act. The Doe v. Antioch litigation, sponsored by Students Matter—the organization behind the historic education equality lawsuit, Vergara v. California—seeks to enforce the Stull Act by challenging collectively bargained teacher evaluation systems that defy state law by explicitly prohibiting the use of standardized test scores in teacher performance evaluations.
Enacted in 1971, the Stull Act requires school districts to evaluate teacher performance, in part, based on the progress of students toward district and state academic standards, as measured by certain state-adopted standards-based tests. The Stull Act also requires school districts to consider the teacher’s instructional techniques and strategies, the teacher’s adherence to curricular objectives, and the learning environment created by the teacher.
“The academic performance of students is the cornerstone of any meaningful and rigorous teacher evaluation system,” said Plaintiffs’ counsel Joshua S. Lipshutz of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “The law is clear: Teachers must be evaluated, at least in part, based on the academic progress of their students. Teacher quality cannot be divorced from student learning.”
In their opening brief, Plaintiffs offered uncontroverted evidence proving that the thirteen school districts named in the lawsuit violate the Stull Act, including:
• Operative collective bargaining agreements from each district, most of which contain language explicitly prohibiting the use of standardized test results in teacher evaluations;
• Teacher evaluation forms used in each district, none of which includes student performance data as an evaluation metric or ties teacher performance to pupil progress; and
• Sworn declarations, attested to by school district officials from each district, demonstrating that each district’s teacher evaluation process ignores student learning.
The Doe v. Antioch litigation has already resulted in ten of the thirteen school district Defendants revising their teacher evaluation processes and procedures in an effort to comply with the Stull Act—an acknowledgement that those districts have been violating the law.
Since this lawsuit was filed, four of the thirteen districts named in the lawsuit—Chaffey Joint Union High School District, El Monte City School District, Ontario-Montclair School District, and Victor Elementary School District—have entered into agreements with their local teachers unions to remove from their collective bargaining agreements the offensive language that precluded the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. These same districts have engaged or are engaging in further negotiations to revise their evaluation policies and procedures.
Another two districts—Antioch Unified School District and San Ramon Valley School District—have proposed deleting the offensive language from their collective bargaining agreements, and have engaged or are engaging in negotiations with their local teachers unions to revise their evaluation policies and procedures.
Four other districts—Chino Valley Unified School District, Fremont Union High School District, Inglewood Unified School District, and Saddleback Valley Unified School District—have engaged or are engaging in negotiations with their local teachers unions to revise their evaluation policies and procedures.
While most of the thirteen districts named in the lawsuit have made at least some effort to address their illegal teacher evaluation processes and procedures in response to Doe v. Antioch, none of the districts have yet made changes that bring them into compliance with the Stull Act. Compliance with the law requires substantive changes rather than window dressing. In addition to merely removing the offending language in their respective collective bargaining agreements—language that explicitly violates both the letter and spirit of the Stull Act—the districts must also change their actual teacher evaluation practices to comply with the Stull Act. As long as these thirteen districts refuse to use standardized test scores, even in part, in the final evaluations of teachers, they will continue to violate state law.
“Doe v. Antioch illustrates the need for California to refocus at both the state and district level on accountability in our education system,” said Dave Welch, founder of Students Matter. “We cannot leave accountability for student learning up to chance—or up for negotiation. California cannot deliver the quality education all students deserve without seriously and honestly evaluating the performance of education practitioners. It’s not just common sense—it’s the law.”
While Students Matter’s first lawsuit, Vergara v. California, highlighted the importance of teacher quality in the classroom and the need to reform California’s teacher employment laws, Doe v. Antioch seeks to ensure that school districts use robust teacher evaluations to determine teacher effectiveness in the classroom—an important step toward holding California accountable for providing equal educational opportunities to all students, as demanded by the Vergara ruling.
The brief was filed in Contra Costa Superior Court. To read the full brief and access the factual record, click here.
Students Matter is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to sponsoring impact litigation to promote access to quality public education. Learn more at studentsmatter.org.