Teachers union joins suit against release of ratings
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The teachers union for the L.A. Unified School District was granted court permission Thursday to join a Los Angeles Times lawsuit seeking access to teacher ratings so it can argue they are based on an unreliable mathematical formula and should not be disclosed to the public.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant granted the motion by United Teachers Los Angeles to join the lawsuit and argue against disclosure of the ratings, which attempt to isolate a teacher’s effect on raising student test scores by controlling for poverty and other outside factors. But he said the issue of whether the ratings and method used to calculate them, known as value-added, are reliable or not would not be a major issue in the lawsuit.
“My focus here is: Are these public records and are they exempt” from public disclosure laws, Chalfant said in the court hearing.
The district has provided The Times with school-wide value-added scores but only anonymous individual scores, denying requests for the names of teachers or their schools. The district also denied requests to provide identifiers that would allow the Times to link a teacher’s value-added scores across years.
The district is arguing that it may withhold the information to protect the teacher privacy. But The Times contends that the data are public records and the release of them will help promote critical public debate about how to improve schools.
“Now we just have school-wide numbers, but they are very general and don’t provide the substantive information that the public needs to figure out what needs to happen to improve school performance,” said Rochelle Wilcox, an attorney representing The Times.
LA. Unified, while opposing the release of individual value-added scores by name, argues that they are a reliable method of evaluating a teacher’s performance as one of many measures. The Times argues that the scores are public record and must be released whether they are reliable or not.
The union declined to comment. Chalfant set a trial date for June 4.
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