Supreme Court Rules Against Loudoun Parent Seeking Teachers’ Names, Student Scores

The Virginia Supreme Court has overturned an earlier lower-court decision that would have required the Virginia Department of Education to make public teachers’ names and the performance data of their students.

The decision comes after a years-long legal fight between Lansdowne parent Brian Davison and the state education department. Davison took VDOE to court in 2014 after his request that Loudoun County Public Schools release Student Growth Percentile scores by school and by teacher was denied. Several groups, including LCPS and the Virginia Education Association, filed petitions to intervene in the case, citing concerns that the information would unfairly target teachers whose students show low progress rates.

Loudoun administrators have cautioned against using the SGP information to assess a school’s or a school district’s quality of instruction. It only tracks students’ progress in math and reading in grades 3-8, and does not account for students who take alternative Standards of Learning exams, students who are new to Virginia or those who have transferred schools.

Davison, a parent of two Loudoun students, has said the scores are a better indicator of students’ year-over-year progress than Standards of Learning scores and they would help administrators identify the division’s most effective teachers.

In April 2016, a Richmond Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of Davison, and said that VDOE must release the scores, and the names of the schools and teachers tied to them.

But that was reversed by the Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday. The court ruled that Virginia code makes “teacher performance indicators” confidential. “Therefore, the circuit court erred in ordering the production of these documents containing teachers’ identifiable information,” Judge Cleo E. Powell stated in her opinion.

The opinion also requires the Richmond Circuit Court to reconsider its previous ruling to require VDOE and Loudoun County School Board to pay Davison $35,000 to cover attorney’s fees and other costs. That decision ultimately rests at the circuit court level. The opinion states that, if any party should cover Davison’s fees, it should be VDOE, as the custodian of the records, and not the Loudoun County School Board. “The circuit court must reconsider whether to award attorneys’ fees and, if so, the appropriate amount,” Powell wrote.

After the ruling Thursday, Virginia Education Association President Jim Livingston wrote in an emailed statement, “This is a huge win for our members.”

When the Richmond Circuit Court’s ruling initially fell in favor of Davison in 2016, he said he planned to publish the information on his “VirginiaSGP” Facebook page. He said he would not identify students but would consider masking teachers’ identity. “But other members of the public can analyze the data themselves to discover who those teachers are,” he said.

Davison is in several other legal fights, including one with county Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and another with Loudoun County School Board members. In one case, a federal judge ruled that Randall violated Davison’s First and 14th Amendment protections when she temporarily blocked him from her official Facebook page. Randall has appealed that decision.

In a similar case, a second federal judge arrived at a different ruling. Judge Anthony Trengasided with the School Board members who had blocked Davison on Facebook, dismissing all counts in the case. Davison is appealing that decision.

The rulings hinged on whether an elected official’s Facebook pages could be considered public forums of speech, and in their rulings, both judges drew from the same court precedent to arrive at different answers.

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

3 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules Against Loudoun Parent Seeking Teachers’ Names, Student Scores

  • 2017-09-01 at 11:00 am
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    Thank you for speaking up for the rights of all parents and students, Brian. Most people simply will not question bureaucrats and you are to be admired for standing on principal.

  • 2017-09-02 at 11:59 am
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    DJD – this was not a case of speaking up for the rights of parents and students. It was Brian Davidson’s attempt to snoop through out children’s test scores. It was about him violating our privacy.

    I find it funny that you take his word that these obscure data reflect teacher performance despite no evidence and many educational experts saying the exact opposite. How can you admire this guy?

  • 2017-09-02 at 2:32 pm
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    Folks should understand the following:

    1. No personal student information was EVER going to be released. That is simply LCPS teacher Alex Fogelson’s (switcher) attempt to mislead the public and gain support. He doesn’t want parents to have anonymous perf data.

    2. The union opposed the reqt to evaluate teachers (just 20%) with this data. So LCSB, including 4 members with LCPS spouses, defrauded the US Dept of Ed by falsely certifying they were using it in return for greater flexibility and $M’s. The union supports illegality to protect ineffective teachers. However, the lawsuit was never about schools complying and actually rating teachers objectively.

    3. This case was only about providing data to parents so they could choose to evaluate their local school district. That’s all. VDOE provided 5M records that do not disclose student identity. However, because teacher names are not included, one cannot analyze the data to show (just like every other study that has e we been conducted) step 3 teachers are no more/less effective than step 30 teachers even though the latter are paid 2x as much. There are large differences in individual teacher effectiveness with some consistently performing in the 90% range and others consistently in the bottom 20%. LCPS falsely rates 99.5%+ as effective because they simply don’t care if your child’s teacher is ineffective.

    Again,this is about teacher unions preventing parents from having the choice of analyzing data that was produced with tax money. Even though our current board would never do anything with it, Fogelson and the like want to bar you from making your own decision.

    Thanks to all who offered your support. The moral is that LCPS will retaliate against you for trying to get objective data and the courts will try to block laws designed to ensure open govt from being enforced. That is why my cases are in the federal system now.

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