The New York City Education Department must include teachers’ names in the performance-data reports it provides to news outlets to fulfill open-records requests, a New York state court ruled today.
That means that media outlets in Gotham could potentially do something similar to last year’s controversial series by the Los Angeles Times. Reporters there published a series of analytical stories based on linked teacher- and student-performance data obtained through an open-records request. The newspaper also made public a database allowing parents and the public at large to look up teachers by name and to see whether they were more or less effective in raising students’ test scores.
Fearing a similar situation, the United Federation of Teachers had sued to redact teachers’ names from such requests in New York, saying that such a release would constitute an invasion of the teachers’ privacy. But the court didn’t agree.
“This information is of interest to parents, students, taxpayers, and the public generally. Although the teachers have an interest in these possibly flawed statistics remaining private, it was not arbitrary and capricious for the DOE to find that the privacy interest at issue is outweighed by the public’s interest in disclosure,” Judge Cynthia Kern wrote in the opinion.
The court also knocked the UFT’s argument that the city’s officials had promised not to release the teacher reports publicly, saying that that agreement didn’t overrule public access to the information. “The board of education cannot bargain away the public’s right to access to public records,” the justice wrote.
The UFT plans to appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press.
UPDATE (4:49 p.m.): Here’s a statement from UFT President Michael Mulgrew:
“The reports, which are largely based on discredited state tests, have huge margins of error and are filled with inaccuracies, will only serve to mislead parents looking for real information.
“We intend to appeal as soon as possible, and will be asking the Appellate Division, First Department, to halt any release pending their review of Justice Kern’s decision.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.