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NYC Judge Strikes Blow to Teachers Union
posted by: Alix | January 11, 2011, 04:11 PM   

In October, we reported that the New York City school system had announced plans to work with the media to publish "value-added" scores and other data from the country's largest public school system. Yesterday there was new development in the case when a Manhattan judge ruled that the city may release performance rankings to the media, denying a request by the teachers union to keep the teachers' names confidential.

For years, the information has been seen in private by administrators and the teachers themselves; however, this release would allow the general public to see the raw data that spells out teacher performance and student achievement. Similar to the Los Angeles Times publication of scores, this disclosure would be the largest in the country, affecting nearly 12,000 teachers.

"The public has an interest in the job performance of public employees, particularly in the field of education," Justice Kern wrote in her legal statement. "Courts have repeatedly held that release of job-performance related information, even negative information such as that involving misconduct, does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy."

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew was disappointed in the decision and vowed to have it appealed. "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."

Others argue that publishing the scores will be a step toward transparency without violating privacy. "This ruling does not mean you can go through their personnel folders," said attorney David Schulz, who represented the media organization that requested the data. "But if there was objective data out there about how many streets a sanitation worker could plow in five hours, I think that is available and would be analogous."

Although Mulgrew vows to appeal, the attempts at locking away this information seem to be delaying the inevitable as legal experts and precedent suggest otherwise.

Even Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said about making scores public, "Parents and community members have the right to know how their districts, schools, principals and teachers are doing. It's up to local communities to set the context for these courageous conversations, but silence is not an option."

It's unclear how New York City teachers will react to this information when it is published and what affect it will have on evaluations for teachers across the country. Certainly transparency seems to be the driving force behind these publications.

What do you think about the release of this information? Does the public have the right to know?
Comment below.

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