USD Releases New Report on Teacher Effectiveness

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A new report “Increasing Access to Effective Teachers for All Children in California,” offers recommendations for state education policymakers in California based on an analysis of research into the role teachers play in providing California’s students with a quality education. Released by the Center for Education Policy and Law (CEPAL), housed in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego (USD) and the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) at San Diego State University (SDSU), the report also identifies current policies and practices that contradict the best practices identified in the research. The report marks the first time the University of San Diego’s CEPAL and San Diego State University’s NCUST have collaborated on academic research.

“The responsibility for the education of California’s children lies squarely with state policymakers,” said the center directors behind the new report, Scott Himelstein and Joseph F. Johnson Jr., in a joint statement. “We hope that this evidence-based report will provide guidance to those policymakers interested in a path forward toward a public education system that ensures equity for all students.”

The report begins with a summary of a substantial body of empirical evidence that identifies teachers as the most important in-school predictors of student achievement. Understanding the importance of teachers, the report identifies opportunities to support the teaching profession, including providing administrators with adequate time and sufficient training to observe, evaluate and support probationary teachers, noting that such an approach effectively increases accountability among all key stakeholders — teachers, principals and other administrators.

The report’s authors also found that the long and complex teacher dismissal process in California has resulted in ineffective teachers remaining in classrooms — indicating that the employment rights of adults have come at the expense of the rights of California’s children to a quality education. And in regard to the state’s seniority-based layoff policy, also referred to as “Last In-First Out” or LIFO, the authors were unable to find any evidence that such a policy is in the best interest of students. To the contrary, research shows that children of color and those from low-income homes are disproportionately affected by the state’s policy because their schools tend to have the greatest number of new teachers.

The report concludes with a set of specific recommendations for state legislators — the stewards of education in California. Each recommendation is derived directly from the analysis of the research presented in the report. The recommendations include:

  • In order to avoid prematurely denying tenure to potentially effective teachers or granting permanent status to those who are not truly effective, the probationary period for new teachers should be extended to five years and based upon at least four annual evaluations.
  • Tenured teachers who receive unsatisfactory performance evaluations for two consecutive years should revert to probationary status and receive professional development and mentoring to help them meet standards of effectiveness.
  • Given the inextricable link between teacher effectiveness and a quality education, teachers should have annual valid and reliable evaluations in order to ensure their continued effectiveness and ability to meet ever-changing expectations.
  • The state should require a timely mechanism for addressing teacher ineffectiveness so that students are not subjected to ineffective teachers.
  • Layoff policies should consider teacher effectiveness as a primary criterion in making reduction-in-force decisions.

WRG Foundation and Students Matter provided funding for CEPAL and NCUST to independently examine current policies and practice.

To read the full report, visit

About Center for Education Policy and Law

The Center for Education Policy and Law (CEPAL) is a non-partisan research entity operating under the auspices of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) and the School of Law at the University of San Diego (USD). Established by a grant from the William D. Lynch Foundation in 2007, CEPAL’s mission is to foster better linkage between educational research, policymaking, and practice. To this end, CEPAL undertakes empirical and legal research on educational policy issues, enhances communication between education leaders and state-level policymakers, and facilitates understanding among USD law students and education graduate students about the policymaking process through courses, internships, and research opportunities. Additional information about CEPAL is available at

About National Center for Urban School Transformation

The National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) is a research and support center within San Diego State University’s College of Education. The Center’s mission is to help school districts and their partners transform urban schools into places where all students achieve academic proficiency, evidence a love of learning, and graduate well prepared to succeed in post-secondary education, the workplace, and their communities. Additional information about NCUST is available at

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Pamela Gray Payton
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