Causal Stories in Vergara v. California

Jessica J. Gottlieb, Ethan L. Hutt, Benjamin M. Superfine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In 2012, families in California filed a lawsuit alleging that five state statutes governing teacher tenure, dismissal, and seniority together violate the state constitution’s requirements for equal protection. Central to the case were competing narratives about the relationship between these statutes, the work of teachers, and the achievement of students. This article analyzes those narratives utilizing the trial court transcripts and judicial opinions in Vergara v. California. We find that despite reaching divergent rulings, the trial and appellate courts provided highly typified accounts of the case—ones that emphasized individual agency and dismissed or deemphasized the importance of the social and political context of schooling. These findings are important for understanding how complex policy debates become transformed within legal proceedings and for understanding the capacity of courts to engage complex evidence and narratives—a major issue given that courts remain an important venue for school reform.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-593
Number of pages35
JournalEducational Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • accountability
  • causal inference
  • education reform
  • evaluation and assessment
  • legal issues
  • teacher qualifications


Dive into the research topics of 'Causal Stories in Vergara v. California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this