Los Angeles Times Battled Los Angeles School District to Force Disclosure of Teacher Ratings

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The Los Angeles School District has had one of the more high-profile battles over the disclosure over teachers ratings.

After the ratings were created but kept from the public, the Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit to require the Los Angeles School District to disclose the results.

In 2013, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled in favor of the Times on the grounds that public interest in accessing the ratings trumped any expectations of privacy under the California Public Records Act.

In 2014, Judge Chalfant was overruled by a three-judge state appellate court panel.

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.

Shortly after the appellate ruling, the L.A. Times “obtained seven years of math and English test scores from the Los Angeles Unified School District and used the information to estimate the effectiveness of L.A. teachers”.

The Times summed up the attitude of the Los Angeles Unified School District this way:

Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another. As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the keys to their success rarely studied. Ineffective teachers often face no consequences and get no extra help.

The Times then published a database so that readers could look up individual teachers, Los Angeles Teacher Ratings.

As the Los Angeles lawsuits worked their ways through the court, Governor Andrew Cuomo opposed the wide release of teacher evaluation data in New York.