The State of Texas is being sued by nearly two-thirds of its school districts over drastic budget cuts that have forced numerous classrooms to exceed the state cap on the number of students permitted in each class room. The classroom size was originally capped at 22 students by the Gov. Mark White in 1984. At the time, Texas was the first state in the country to cap classroom sizes. Under the 1984 cap districts may request waivers to allow larger classroom sizes but the use of such waivers up until the 2010-2011 school year was minimal.
The issue at hand in this trial is whether or not the increased class sizes affect student performance. Both sides are expected to offer testimony as to whether or not the increased class size has an effect on student performance. The case is being covered by the Dallas Morning News and the most recent article can be found here: http://educationblog.dallasnews.com/2012/12/key-state-arguments-in-school-finance-case-undermined-by-state-witness.html/
The State’s expert recently testified that he did not believe the increased class size affected student performance in Texas. However, the consistency of his testimony has become an issue because in his previous employment he had offered the opinion that increased class sizes did negatively impact student performance. The school districts are placing a lot of weight on this change in opinion and are focusing on the inconsistency. The effect of this inconsistency will become clearer as the trial progresses.
It can be difficult for either side to overcome a perceived inconsistency in expert witness testimony. Witness credibility is based on the logical application of the expert’s professional experience to the current facts of the case. The expert’s credibility can become an issue when he or she has a publicly stated opinion and makes statements in court that are contrary to the previously held opinion. Generally speaking, effectively establishing the reasons for the change is the best way to combat the inconsistency and any credibility issues associated with it.