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NYC value-added
Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court (photo by Beyond My Ken)

On Monday, January 10th, Justice Cynthia Kern ruled that the decision by the NYC Department of Education to publicly release Teacher Data Reports (TDRs) with individual teachers’ names attached was not “arbitrary and capricious.” That the chips fell this way isn’t terribly surprising.

Kern’s ruling is interesting more for what it doesn’t say than for what it does. And the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has already appealed, so her ruling almost certainly won’t be the final word on this subject. As I wrote last month, “regardless of what Judge Cynthia Kern decides, it’s safe to say that the current teacher-evaluation system is broken in most school districts nationwide — and that value-added analysis is here to stay.”

Among the highlights of what Kern did say:

•  “This court is not passing judgment on the wisdom of the decision of the DOE, whether from a policy perspective or from any perspective, or whether the DOE had discretion under the law to make a different decision, nor is this court making any determination as to the value, accuracy or reliability of the TDRs.”

•  “The UFT’s argument that the data reflected in the TDRs should not be released because the TDRs are so flawed and unreliable as to be subjective is without merit. The Court of Appeals has clearly held that there is no requirement that data be reliable for it to be disclosed. … Therefore, the unredacted TDRs may be released regardless of whether and to what extent they may be unreliable or otherwise flawed.”

•  “Finally, the UFT’s argument that the DOE assured teachers that the TDRs were confidential means that they cannot be disclosed under FOIL is without merit. … regardless of whether Mr. Cerf’s letter constituted a binding agreement, ‘as a matter of public policy, the Board of Education cannot bargain away the public’s right to access to public records.’ … Accordingly, the DOE’s assurances that the TDRs would remain confidential cannot shield them from disclosure.”

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Justin Snider is a contributing editor at The Hechinger Report. He is an assistant dean at Columbia University, where he also teaches undergraduate writing. Previously, Snider taught high-school English...

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