Teacher with hands on her hips.California’s teacher evaluation laws have needed revision for some time, and legislators continue to argue about how they should be rewritten. Specifically, the issue is how to define effective and ineffective teachers.

Teachers today face many issues in the classroom, especially when they are new and are assigned to the school districts that need them the most. Typically these are districts in large metropolitan areas and often they are the poorer school districts, with many students who have learning difficulties or challenges. Even when the new teachers work hard to engage their classrooms, often with few resources and little support, they can be evaluated as ineffective, because they may fail to reach some students who are the most challenged.

Some experts believe this is unfair, because new teachers with plenty of ability are judged on the overall outcome of their classrooms. They may be teaching in school districts with a disproportionate number of students with learning challenges or disabilities (Peterson, 2017). The California Supreme Court has recognized the unfair assignment of new teachers in disadvantaged school districts, due to lack of tenure and experience.

In school districts with more resources, struggling students may receive additional one on one instruction or may be placed in small classrooms with specialized education professionals, who have the skills and experience to work with such students. For now, the California Board of Education would rather avoid the court battles and focus on how the system can be improved. Currently, the board’s definition of an effective teacher is one who holds the right credentials (Peterson, 2017). Unless the teacher is in a student teaching assignment, any teacher who has graduated from a degree granting education program, has completed student teaching hours, has complete teacher training in the subjects to be taught, and holds a license is a teacher with the right credentials.

Prior to the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), teachers were not labeled as effective or ineffective. According to No Child Left Behind, they were labeled as “highly qualified” or not. But many evaluations have changed since the newer legislation. Many states assign teachers with the effective or ineffective label, based on performance evaluations (Fensterwald, 2017). The argument that many experts make, is that teachers are more likely to receive lower performance evaluations when they are working in poorer school districts, due to the many challenges they face in the classroom with student learning challenges, behavior issues, and lack of resources for individualized attention.

Those who argue against the California Board of Education’s definition of an effective teacher claim the ability to help children learn is what makes a teacher effective. When surveyed, both parents and teachers themselves claim 10-15% of teachers are ineffective, lacking the ability to help children learn (Peterson, 2017). Some reasons cited for poor teacher performance include high numbers of immigrant students and students enrolled in poorer school districts, where many of the children are disadvantaged.

The State Board of Education in California is attempting to plan for redistribution of new teachers, so they are not all placed in the disadvantaged school districts. For now, the board has determined that newly licensed teachers in their first 2 years of teaching can still be labeled as effective. The board had previously determined they could not be labeled as effective (Fensterwald, 2017). But, the board has been receiving pressure from justice groups and civil rights groups to change the definition. They believe that in doing so, the state would require school districts to reassign teachers to districts using means other than seniority or tenure.

As one of the leading tutoring services in Orange County, Los Angeles, Chino Hills, and San Diego, we have been following this debate for many years. We will continue to monitor the narrative and urge you to check back with us to keep track of new developments.

Fensterwald, J. (2017). California defines ‘effective’ and ‘ineffective’ teachers and why it matters. EdSource. Retrieved October 9, 2017 from https://edsource.org/2017/california-defines-effective-and-ineffective-teachers-and-why-it-matters/587521.

Peterson, P.E. (2017). California’s board of education ignores teacher effectiveness, but one in ten teachers are ineffective claim fellow instructors. Retrieved October 9, 2017 from https://www.hoover.org/research/californias-board-education-ignores-teacher-effectiveness-one-ten-teachers-are-ineffective.