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L.A. Unified loses round in effort to keep teacher ratings secret

Los Angeles Unified School District

The Los Angeles Unified School District has lost a key round in a legal battle to keep the performance ratings of individual teachers confidential.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal declined this week to consider the case after a lower court ordered the school system to turn over the information to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper had sought the ratings through a public records request. The school system withheld the information, citing the privacy rights of employees.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Grading the teachers

In August, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled that the ratings must be released because public interest in them outweighed any teacher privacy rights under the California Public Records Act.

L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union for the district, jointly asked Chalfant to delay the release until they could appeal the ruling. Chalfant granted that request. The appeals court's decision was dated Wednesday.

The teachers union and the district still could appeal the case to the state Supreme Court. Late Thursday, Sean Rossall, a spokesman for L.A. Unified, said the district was "in the process of evaluating all of the options before us and expect to have a decision on how to proceed in the coming days."

The Times sought three years of district data, from 2009 through 2012, that represent the district’s calculation of how much or how little individual teachers contributed to their students' academic achievement, as measured by state standardized test scores.

Using a complex formula, the district's aim was to isolate a teacher's effect on student growth by controlling for such factors as poverty, race, English ability and previous test scores. The district sought to use that type of analysis as one measure in teacher evaluations.

So far, the teachers union has successfully resisted use of that method for individual teachers. The analysis can be used in evaluating schools. The union contends the method is unreliable for rating teachers.

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Twitter: @howardblume | howard.blume@latimes.com

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