Teachers Want Answers|on Mass Firings in D.C.

     WASHINGTON (CN) – District of Columbia schools have fired 563 teachers in four years because of their IMPACT teacher evaluation scores – but won’t say how the scores are determined, teacher unions claim in court.
     The Washington Teachers Union and the American Federation of Teachers sued the District of Columbia Public Schools on Tuesday in Superior Court, seeking information on teachers’ performance evaluation scores and the reasons for their firings.
     The unions filed a Freedom of Information Act request in August 2014, but the school system claimed that releasing the information would be “a clearly unwarranted invasion of [teachers’] personal privacy.”
     Since the mass firings, the percentage of African-American, Hispanic, low-income, English learners and special education students who achieve “proficient” reading status has declined, the teacher say.
     “The public has a significant public interest in knowing why the improvements promised by D.C. schools when it implemented IMPACT have failed public school students,” according to the complaint.
     IMPACT was implemented by D.C. schools in 2009-10, allegedly to improve teachers’ classroom performance.
     The schools provided some of information the union sought, but refused others, a decision that was upheld by Mayor Muriel Bowser.
     “It is reasonable to conclude that any portions of the compiled responsive documents that may be exempt from non-disclosure under FOIA are so inextricably intertwined with exempt material as to be non-segregable and that ‘little more than a template’ would remain,” Bowser wrote.
     The unions call the mayor’s ruling “erroneous and contrary to the D.C. FOIA statute.”
     The unions seek two key items – details on teacher terminations and the fired teachers’ IMPACT scores. They say the school district could schools could provide a teacher’s IMPACT scores and merely redact the teacher’s name to protect privacy.
     “Disclosure of the withheld information will serve the public interest by informing the public about the very important issue of the DCPS teacher evaluation system, its effect on teacher quality and its impact on student achievement,” the complaint states.
     The unions are represented by Lee Jackson with James & Hoffman.

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