By Olivia Scheck and Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN —The city's teachers union filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a judge to stop the Education Department from releasing reports about individual teacher performance, claiming the information is unreliable and likely to malign its members.
The United Federation of Teachers said its lawyers filed a restraining order against the city in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday morning, seeking to suppress the looming release of information.
Michael Mulgrew, the union president, said the statistics Education officials want to release is "bad information based on bad data."
"The [DOE] has a responsibility to parents to give the parents real information and stop playing games and misleading them," he said at a Thursday afternoon press conference. "When you are saying that this is a judgment of [teachers] you have to say what is reliable and what is not."
Mulgrew said if parents wanted to truly assess teachers, they should go to schools and meet with them.
In a Wednesday statement, the UFT derided the "Teacher Data Reports" as “unreliable, often incorrect, subjective analyses dressed up as scientific facts.”
The union claimed that past reports had mistakenly placed students in the wrong classes and even credited teachers with classes they'd never taught. They also impugned the credibility of the city's English and math tests themselves, which have come under heavy criticism in recent months for their questionable veracity.
Officials for the city have defended the teacher data reports, saying they are derived from a complex formula designed to calculate how each city teacher has contributed to his or her students' success in a given school year.
They said the reports are based on a "value-added formula," which calculates the difference between students' test scores in English and math before and after they are assigned each individual teacher, and supporters say it also makes an effort to account for variable factors like poverty, race and gender.
If the court refuses to grant the UFT's request to keep the information private, the DOE will be free to release individual teachers' reports to the media or even create an online database for parents.
Such a database already exists for teachers in the Los Angeles public school system, created by the LA Times, using data provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District.