Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why did VEA seek to have HB1889 introduced?

The Freedom of Information Act Virginia Code section 2.2-3705.1(1) allows a governmental body to grant OR deny public access to personnel records.  School boards can exercise discretion to deny access to personnel records to persons other than the teacher.  But the teacher currently has no basis for complaint if the school board exercises discretion to allow access.  The school board has DISCRETION whether or not to release information.

We are both thankful and well served by the fact that most school boards show great wisdom in regard to this issue; however, with the advent of the collection of discreet student performance data for each teacher we wish to make it clear that this information should not be distributed for public consumption.

One thing that we are discovering from states that are ahead of Virginia in the development of teacher specific data is that news outlets will request this data, and in Los Angeles, for example, this data is published.  We know that the data is volatile and this year’s top teacher may be next year’s low performer.  Assignment of students has never been random and it never will be.

If a teacher is a consistent underperformer, the division should address this issue.  However, no teacher deserves to wake up and read in the morning paper that they are the worst teacher in their grade at their school.  In one widely reported instance this rude awakening led to the suicide of a very promising young teacher.

I applaud Virginia’s school divisions for showing wise discretion in regard to this issue; however, the purpose of HB 1889 is to make it clear that this data should not be released. 

We thank Delegate Jim LeMunyon for championing this bill.