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For second time, a court rules city can release teachers' scores

The city can release teacher ratings data to news organizations, the state’s second-highest court ruled today in another serious blow to the union’s effort to keep individual teachers’ scores out of the press.

The release won’t happen right away while the legal fight continues, Department of Education officials said.

But the union is running out of chances to stop the ratings from being published. In December, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the city could release Teacher Data Reports for at least 12,000 teachers who have them. After the Appellate Court ruling today, the union’s last hope is the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.

The union is already working on its appeal, UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced moments after the Appellate Court ruling.

Because the four judges on the Appellate Court ruled unanimously against the union, there’s no guarantee that the Court of Appeals will hear the case. Instead, the Appellate Court has to give permission. Within days, the union will ask the appellate court for permission to have the case heard in the Court of Appeals. If permission isn’t granted, the union can also ask the Court of Appeals itself. If the Court of Appeals declines to hear the case, then the Appellate Court’s decision would stand and the union would be out of options.

“We will await the court’s decision on [the UFT’s] request to appeal before we release the data,” said Natalie Ravitz, a DOE spokeswoman.

The Teacher Data Reports are “value-added” evaluations, which grade teachers by comparing their students’ test scores to forecasted scores. They were created as an internal assessment, designed to help teachers gauge their own performance. But the city announced it would release the ratings publicly after several news organizations filed Freedom of Information Law requests for them. That announcement prompted the UFT lawsuit.

The Appellate Court judges ruled that making teachers’ ratings available is in the public interest. “The reports concern information of a type that is of a compelling interest to the public, namely, the proficiency of public employees in the performance of their duties,” the judges wrote.

But the union argues that the data reports’ wide margin of error means it would be irresponsible to publish them.

“Experts agree that an ‘accountability’ measure with a 58-point swing — like the DOE’s teacher data system – is worse than useless,” Mulgrew said in a statement. “Parents and teachers need credible, accurate assessments rather than guesswork.”

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