Public Records Law & Value Added Measurement

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On November 12, 2013, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal issued a decision regarding Florida Public Records law and the value added measurement, impacting the Department of Education and likely local school districts.

Specifically, the Court determined that the value added measurement (i.e., the amount by which a student’s actual FCAT score is greater than the predicted score) is not exempt from disclosure under public records law. Meaning, if a public records request is made for the value added measurement, it must be provided to the requesting party.

The Florida Times-Union, a newspaper owned by Morris Publishing, sought from the DOE the immediate release of the value added measurement data. In opposition, the DOE argued that the value added measurement was not subject to disclosure under Florida’s public records law until the end of the year because it is part of the teacher evaluation, which is exempt from disclosure. See Fla. Stat. § 1012.31(3)(a)2.

The Court disagreed, finding that the value added measurement is only a part of the teacher’s evaluation, and just because the complete evaluation is exempt from disclosure does not mean that data used to prepare the evaluation is also exempt. Accordingly, only the employee evaluation is exempt from disclosure under Florida’s public records law. It remains to be seen whether this ruling undermines the confidentiality of teacher evaluations for school districts in future cases because Florida Sunshine Law does not generally hold that the exempt status of a record is dependent upon the public agency that holds it.

Morris Publ’g Grp., LLC d/b/a The Fla. Times-Union v. Fla. Dep’t of Educ. and The Fla. Educ. Ass’n, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2345-46 (Fla. 1st DCA Nov. 12, 2013).

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