Gary Rubinstein’s Blog: Kane and Chetty: Witnesses for the Defense?
Things are heating up in Campbell Brown’s New York franchise of the Vergara trial. It was just announced that one of the top trial lawyers in the country David Boies (lawyer for Gore in Bush v. Gore trial among many other high profile cases) is going to be involved in the prosecution.
Now I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a pretty good arguer and logical thinker, and I’d say that the defense in Vergara did a terrible job. Even so, I think the decision will get reversed but if it doesn’t, it will be because of the bad defense.
There were so many contradictions in Vergara. The prosecution miraculously managed to argue that value-added was not accurate enough to earn teachers tenure in 18 months yet was accurate enough to justify getting rid of LIFO and replacing it with layoffs based on those same inaccurate value-added scores. Here is some testimony for Thomas Kane, who, based on the judgement, was the star witness for the prosecution.
Q: DR. KANE, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A SCHOOL DISTRICT TO BELIEVE THAT A TEACHER IS EFFECTIVE IN THE FIRST 18 MONTHS OF THEIR EMPLOYMENT BUT ACTUALLY TO BE WRONG ABOUT THAT AND FOR THE TEACHER TO TURN OUT TO BE A BOTTOM 5 PERCENT TEACHER?
Q HAVE YOU SEEN THAT IN YOUR WORK?
A SO I –
Q YES OR NO?
Q AND CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN?
A I HAVE SEEN DATA POINTS THAT TAKE THAT PATTERN. I COULDN’T NAME THE TEACHERS THAT HAVE FIT THAT PATTERN, BUT IT’S TO BE EXPECTED THAT IF YOU HAVE AN IMPERFECT MEASURE THE FIRST YEAR, THAT THERE WILL BE EXAMPLES OF TEACHERS THAT APPEARED LESS EFFECTIVE IN THE FIRST YEAR THAN THEY WILL BE IN THE SECOND AND THIRD AND FOLLOWING YEAR, BUT THEY’LL ALSO BE TEACHERS WHO APPEAR MORE EFFECTIVE IN THEIR FIRST YEAR THAN THEY WILL BE IN THEIR SECOND AND THIRD YEAR. SO THERE WILL BE TEACHERS FOR WHOM YOU WERE OVEROPTIMISTIC AT THE END OF THE FIRST YEAR OR 18 MONTHS, WHATEVER AND THERE WILL BE TEACHERS THAT YOU WERE OVERLY PESSIMISTIC ABOUT AT THE END OF 18 MONTHS.
This was from questioning by the prosecutors about why the 18 month tenure rule was unconstitutional. The defense should have exploited this admission that the value-added was unreliable especially when there is just one year of data and use this to argue why using value-added instead of LIFO would be an unfair system.
Also a major witness was Raj Chetty who published a big paper about how students who had teachers with higher value-added scores made more money in life. These conclusions have been challenged pretty convincingly, but still even the President paraphrased the paper in one of his State of The Union addresses.
So now there will be a Vergara-like trial in New York City. The prosecution has some very heavy hitters. For the defense, I don’t know. The defendants are people like John King. I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the defendants hope to lose the trial and maybe won’t get the best representation to go against a dream team rivaling the OJ Simpson lawyers.
But the New York trial, with competent defense attorneys, should be much easier to win. First of all, New York has a three year tenure process, which is something that was argued would be a reasonable amount of time, even by the prosecutors, during the Vergara case.
But the biggest problem the prosecutors are going to have is that in the Vergara case, Kane had said in his testimony that poor kids in Los Angeles had a disproportionate percent of ineffective teachers, according to his research. To show how bad it was, he compared it to New York where this same phenomenon did not occur.
Here is a slide from Kane’s slide show:
He was questioned by the prosecutors about this:
Q WAS THIS FINDING OF MALDISTRIBUTION IN LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT SURPRISING TO YOU? YES OR NO?
Q WHY NOT?
A SO IT’S — I HAVE SEEN IN OTHER SCHOOL DISTRICTS, ALTHOUGH NOT NEW YORK CITY, YOU KNOW, A SIMILAR PATTERN.
Later on, Kane explains to the defense that Chetty also did not find that ‘ineffective’ teachers were disproportionately assigned to poor students.
Q AND WITH RESPECT TO THIS MALDISTRIBUTION OF EFFECTIVE TEACHERS, PROFESSOR CHETTY DID NOT FIND THIS MALDISTRIBUTION IN THE NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS; CORRECT?
A THAT’S MY READING OF HIS RESULTS, YES.
So it seems that this would make Kane and Chetty pretty bad witnesses for the New York case. Perhaps they will get other witnesses, or they will get Kane and Chetty and hope that the defense doesn’t have (or doesn’t care to do) what it takes to go up against the big hired pro-bono guns. If only I had gone to law school, like I had originally planned, rather than do TFA, I’m sure I could win this case.
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