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Court orders state to release teacher performance data

A panel of appellate judges on Tuesday ordered the state Department of Education to release controversial data on teacher performance.

The Florida Times-Union had filed a lawsuit seeking to obtain the data, which will soon be tied to pay raises.

Initially, a trial court ruled against disclosure, saying teacher evaluation records were exempt from public records laws until the end of the school year in which the evaluation was made. But that ruling was overturned by the First District Court of Appeal.

“Given the strong public policy in Florida in favor of public records disclosure under the State Constitution... we reverse,” Judge William A. Van Nortwick Jr. wrote.

On Tuesday, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said he was disappointed with the outcome.

The FEA had joined the education department in the case.

“The evaluation data on teachers that is about to be made public is meaningless, which is why we joined in to enforce the public records exemption and prevent it from being published,” Ford wrote in a statement. “The numbers to be released are subject to misinterpretation. They have not been put in their proper context.”

Ford called Florida’s value-added model for evaluating teachers “deeply flawed,” because it relies on data from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests, and only a third of educators teach students and subjects tested on the FCATs.

He also pointed out that data would not take into account a new law requiring teachers to be evaulated based only on students they teach.

Education department spokesman Joe Follick said state education officials were reviewing the opinion and discussing their options.

Read the opinion here.

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