Monday, November 28, 2011


By Antonio Villaraigosa , Op-Ed in the Long Beach Press-Telegram |

11/27/2011 01:00:00 AM PST - Each year, California's School Boards Association gives out an award to the California state legislator who has been most supportive of education.

This year's winner?


That's right. The association could not find one single California legislator in 2011 who was outstanding in his or her support of education.

In fact, while other legislatures across the country debated and even passed meaningful new laws to improve student learning in our schools, Sacramento took a pass.

California parents can't rely on legislators to enact meaningful education reform. School districts and parents are stymied by contract negotiations.

So California parents are turning to their only other avenue -- litigation.

For the second time in less than two years, parents have sued in order to force meaningful reforms in how we teach our children. The first case -- Reed v. State of California -- protected our most vulnerable students from the effects of teacher lay-offs.

This month, Doe v. Deasy landed on the docket of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Filed by a group of parents dedicated to education reform, the lawsuit focuses on the use of student progress in teacher evaluations, an increasingly acrimonious topic in our already heated education debates. The parents' demand is simple: the Los Angeles Unified School District must follow the Stull Act. The implications for all of California's classrooms are profound.

Good teachers help make good students. The research is clear on this. With a great teacher in front of the white board, students can gain two years of knowledge in a single school year. But when a teacher struggles, students struggle. These students quickly fall behind their peers and can stay behind for years.

Common sense would dictate that we put an effective system of teacher evaluations in place. With such a system, we could identify the strong teachers and those who are underperforming. We could develop teacher training and professional development programs that really add value for educators. Most importantly we could get those teachers who are struggling and those who aspire to grow the added training and support they need and want.

Our teachers would be more successful, our students would learn more, and our schools would produce more graduates on their way to college.

Unfortunately, L.A. Unified School District and the United Teachers of Los Angeles have been unable to negotiate a meaningful set of teacher performance measures. As a result, the district's system of evaluation is perfunctory and superficial. In a district rife with low-performing schools, 97 percent of the district's teachers are still rated satisfactory, year in and year out.

Evaluations are not anti-teacher. Far from it.

In truth, teachers are asking to be evaluated. They want well designed evaluations. In a recent poll done by the American Association of Educators, 80 percent of teachers support the use of test data as part of evaluations. When LAUSD teachers were surveyed on their attitudes towards evaluations, they expressed support for evaluations that included more observations by their professional peers.

Teachers and principals enter their profession as life-long learners. With good evaluation tools that they help to design, we can give them the critical support they need to learn and grow.

Doe v. Deasy has the potential to change how the Los Angeles School District -- and every other district in the state -- evaluates its teachers.

Until this lawsuit, not many people remembered the Stull Act. But this this reminder of a time when the California Legislature was focused on building a better school system has been dusted off by a courageous group of parents and advocates led by EdVoice.

Championed in 1971 by then Assemblyman John Stull of San Diego, the law mandated that local school districts specifically include "measures of student learning" in the evaluation of both teachers and principals.

It also was intended to support teacher improvement. Stull made sure to include provisions in the bill directing local districts to provide critical support for educators who needed to improve their performance.

In 1999, when I was Speaker of the California Assembly, we strengthened both the evaluation and educator support elements of the Stull Act.

Unfortunately these legislative actions have failed to be implemented at the school district level. This likely is tied to the fierce resistance to meaningful evaluations by leaders at the district negotiating table.

This lawsuit could be the catalyst that breaks that resistance in Los Angeles and across the state. It could spark, finally, the adoption of effective measures of educator performance and meaningful programs of professional development.

Across the country, some 20 states passed meaningful teacher evaluation reforms in the last two years. California is not among them. But perhaps, this litigation could force schools to implement the laws we passed some 40 years ago.

We once led the nation in the smart and sophisticated use of evaluations to deliver quality education. It's time for us to regain the mantle of leadership. Our students and our teachers deserve nothing less. And with one in eight Americans educated in the state of California, our country depends on it.

Antonio Villaraigosa is mayor of Los Angeles.

2cents smf: How could 4LAKids not re-publish this story?

It has that wonderful headline: “Antonio Villaraigosa: A sad commentary on legislators, litigation and our schools” 

When it turned up in the search engine I figured it was a news story, an indictment of Mayor Tony as a sad commentary on….

Before we embrace Mayor Tony’s thinking here – and his initial premise that the California Legislature has been no friend to education of late – is right in a twisted way. Though Tony’s wrong for the very same/wrong reasons.

First, How soon we forget: 4LAKids recalls that the California's School Boards Association was a plaintiff in LAUSD v. Villaraigosa – fighting Mayor Tony’s unconstitutional takeover of LAUSD when his pet legislature passed AB1381 – giving him LAUSD. 

Is that the kind of “meaningful education reform California parents can't rely on legislators to enact?”

  • As to “school districts and parents being stymied by contract negotiations”: School districts are PARTIES to the contract negotiations. 
  • As a former teachers union honcho who sent his children to private school I don’t see how Mayor Tony represents parents at all. His “group of parents dedicated to education reform” have requested anonymity (but would deny it to teachers) – but their funding comes from EdVoice. And EdVoice’s board (according to the LA Times) includes arts and education philanthropist Eli Broad, former ambassador Frank Baxter and healthcare company executive Richard Merkin. [FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this article named Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan as members of the EdVoice board. They are no longer on the board.}

And now Tony celebrates this lawsuit, JANE DOE, et al, v. JOHN DEASY, et al..  Ask yourself: Who is suing whom here? The defendants and plaintiffs have an interest in reaching the same conclusion: The Does and Deasy play for the same Team: Team ®eform.   “You sue me, I’ll lose and we both win!”

Look up “Collusive Lawsuit” in Wikipedia.

Or collusive action in a real law dictionary::

A lawsuit brought by parties pretending to be adversaries in order to obtain an answer to a legal question or a precedent-setting decision from the court. The action will be dismissed if a judge determines it does not involve a true controversy.” - Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary. Gerald N. Hill, Kathleen Thompson Hill. 2009.

Only the taxpayers lose. And the kids.

But hey, we knew he was a rascal when we reelected him!  Because, gentle readers, Antonio Villaraigosa is a sad commentary on legislators, litigation and our schools.

1 comment:

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

The Mayor claims "Good teachers help make good students. The research is clear on this. With a great teacher in front of the white board, students can gain two years of knowledge in a single school year. But when a teacher struggles, students struggle. These students quickly fall behind their peers and can stay behind for years."

There is no legitimate, peer reviewed research that backs this specious assertion. There's several policy papers from right-wing think tanks making the claim, and a singular paper from a researcher at a Southern university funded by the Walton Foundation. That paper has not been juried by peers of the associate professor making the nonsensical claims. Mayor Failure and all the other corporate reformers promulgating the so-called value-added myth are very much like their counterparts spreading the yellow cake uranium lies leading up to the murderous invasion of Iraq.