L.A. Unified Teachers Ratings Should Be Disclosed, Judge Rules

“The court does not set public policy … the court follows the law,” he wrote, adding that the Legislature could change the state law if it found disclosing teacher ratings proved destructive.

The Times sought three years of district data, from 2009 through 2012, that show whether individual teachers helped -- or hurt -- students academic achievement, as measured by state standardized test scores. 

Using a complex mathematical formula, the district aims to isolate a teacher's effect on student growth by controlling for such outside factors as poverty, race, English ability and prior test scores. The district sought to use that type of analysis, known in L.A. Unified as Academic Growth over Time, in teacher evaluations but was fiercely resisted by the teachers union, which argues that it is unreliable.

The two sides have agreed not to use individual ratings in evaluations and have joined to fight The Times' request for them.

Jesus Quinonez, an UTLA attorney, said the union would probably appeal the ruling and request that no records be released until the case is settled. “We obviously but respectfully disagree” with Chalfant, he said.

The district and union argued in court that teachers could reasonably expect that their ratings were confidential personnel files. But Chalfant ruled that the ratings don’t contain personal information or specific advice, criticism or other evaluative comments by supervisors that would protect them from disclosure.

Rather, he said, they were statistical tabulations of public data about student peformance in a teacher’s class –- rejecting the district’s contention that its decisions about how to create the formula made it a subjective tool that should be protected.

Rochelle Wilcox, an attorney representing The Times, said the district and union provided no evidence that publishing the information would harm teachers, a point Chalfant accepted in saying that claim was largely speculative.

“The school district is compiling this information to benefit the public and the public has a protected interest in evaluating the district’s performance,” Wilcox said.

Chalfant also wrote that controversy over whether these so-called value-added methods are reliable was irrelevant to whether the public had a right to the information. He noted that courts have previously ruled that information does not have to be reliable to be subject to public disclosure.


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Source : http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/01/local/la-me-ln-teachers-ratings--20130801

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