Data Secrecy in DC Continued…

Following a recent post on “Data Secrecy Violating Data Democracy in DC Public Schools (DCPS),” the lawyer(s) from Washington DC sent me an email, including the actual complaint they filed in DC Superior Court to get access to the DC teacher evaluations. With their permission, I include this complaint here, for those of you who might be interested.

The chronology and description of their information request is detailed in the complaint, and the chronology of the attempt to codify the FOIA exemption (under Mayor Bowser) follows (also, as per the above-mentioned lawyer(s)):

On Feb 20, 2015, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Washington Teachers Union (WTU) appealed to Mayor Bowser to require DCPS and DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) to turnover the state’s teacher IMPACT evaluation scores (with names redacted) for school years 2009-10 through 2013-14. On March 3, 2015, emergency legislation gets introduced (i.e., legislation in support of “a radical new secrecy provision to hide the information that’s being used to make [such] big decisions.” On March 18, 2015, Mayor Bowser denied AFT/WTU’s appeal for teacher IMPACT scores (again, with names redacted). On March 30, 2015, Mayor Bowser signs the emergency legislation exempting educator evaluations and effectiveness ratings from being disclosed. On April 14, 2015, AFT/WTU file suit to overturn the decision of DCPS and Mayor Bowser. On June 2, 2015, the permanent legislation exempting educator evaluations from FOIA is placed in the DC budget bill “at the request of the Mayor.”

As it also turns out, the prior mayor (Mayor Gray) introduced “emergency” legislation in 2014 to keep teacher evaluations exempt from FOIA as well, and this legislation was actually about to expire when Mayor Bowser recently introduced the emergency, and now permanent legislation. Mayor Gray’s justification was different than current Mayor Bowser’s, however, as according to the legislative history, under former Mayor Gray’s watch, emergency legislation was needed to keep teacher evaluations secret because charter schools throughout DC were refusing to turn over their teacher evaluations to the OSSE, out of fear that the OSSE would release them (e.g., like they did in Los Angeles Unified, via the Los Angeles Times).

Nonetheless, Mayor Gray felt that neither he nor OSSE could compel the charters to turn over their teacher evaluations. Now, Mayor Bowser wants permanent legislation that would exempt teacher evaluations from FOIA, but Mayor Bowser and DCPS are both arguing that the legislation would only apply to charters.

Why? It is not clear. The proposed legislation does not limit the exemption, but rather states: “Individual educator evaluations and effectiveness ratings, observation, and value-added data collected or maintained by OSSE are not public records and shall not be subject to disclosure…” It is also important to note also, though, that charter operators can use whatever evaluation system or performance measures they want. So they are also exempt, in general.

Kaya Henderson, the DCPS Chancellor (Michelle Rhee’s Deputy Chancellor) was on NPR last week on The Politics Hour hosted by Kojo Nnamdi, during which she also insisted that the new legislation was only to apply to charters.

The WTU President, Liz Davis, will be on Kojo’s show this Thursday to address the DCPS IMPACT evaluations and collective bargaining (CBA) negotiations.

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