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City news outlets join suit over teacher effectiveness scores

Five news organizations have joined the lawsuit over whether the city can release teachers’ effectiveness scores, arguing that they have a right to see the data.

Lawyers for the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and NY1 have decided to intervene in the case, according to a spokeswoman for the city’s law department. They will file their own papers, but are taking the same position as the city’s lawyers, arguing that the data is not protected under the Freedom of Information law.

Reporters at each of the news organizations submitted requests for the data and the city planned to release the reports until last month when the teachers union sued to stop them.

In its lawsuit, the union’s lawyers wrote that the Department of Education should have denied reporters’ FOIL requests because the teachers’ ratings are exempt from disclosure. The suit also said that making the scores public would amount to an invasion of teachers’ privacy.

The release would cover all 12,000 city teachers who have value-added reports, which measure a teacher’s effectiveness based on how good she is at improving her students’ test scores from the beginning of the year to the end.

The reports are a relatively new way of measuring teacher effectiveness and have been criticized by some researchers for their wide margins of error.

To give the news organizations more time to join the lawsuit, the city has asked for the hearing to be postponed from November 24. Oral arguments are now scheduled to take place on December 8, according to a spokesman for the teachers union.

“Media outlets that made the FOIL requests giving rise to this litigation have retained counsel, who is moving to intervene in the matter,” said Jesse Levine, a lawyer for the city, in an email. “The adjournment permits all parties to brief the legal issues involved fully.”