Welcome to LoudounTimes.com
Loudoun Times-Mirror

Va. Supreme Court says VDOE can’t provide teachers’ identifiable info in Davison’s SGP case

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will no longer have to provide the names of teachers and other identifiable teacher information to supplement the Student Growth Percentile (SGP) data it provided Lansdowne resident Brian Davison, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled in an opinion Thursday.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision comes after Davison, a father of two Loudoun County Public Schools students, took VDOE to court in 2014 after the department and LCPS denied his request to see the SGP data he said could be used to objectively evaluate the effectiveness of students’ schools, teachers and principals.

A Richmond Circuit judge ruled that the SGP scores Davison sought needed to be released with teachers' names. The judge also ordered VDOE to pay Davison $35,000 to cover his legal fees and other costs.

VDOE later appealed the decision.

In hearing the appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court needed to determine whether SGP data was considered “teacher performance indicators” -- information state code says is confidential “but may be disclosed, in a form that does not personally identify any student or teacher pursuant to court order for the purposes of a grievance proceeding involving the teacher, or as otherwise required by state or federal law.”

The state's high court also needed to decide if the teacher performance indicators were, in fact, confidential under state code.

In requiring VDOE to provide Davison with the SGP data, the Richmond Circuit Court judge found that while SGP data could be used for “multiple purposes,” including teacher evaluation, the court in Davison's case concluded that the data had not been used as teacher performance indicators by LCPS.

VDOE and the Loudoun County School Board argued that the circuit court’s decision was “erroneous” because SGP data is a teacher performance indicator “regardless of whether it was used in teacher evaluations.”

Davison, however, maintained that SGPs are not teacher performance indicators. Indicators, he argued, need to be used to evaluate teachers to qualify for confidentiality, and in his case, they were not used to evaluate Loudoun’s teachers.

Justice Cleo Powell concluded that because SGPs are frequently referenced as indicators of student academic progress for evaluating teacher performance -- both in VDOE’s adopted Guidelines for Uniform Performance Standards and Evaluation Criteria for Teachers and LCPS’ evaluation procedures handbook -- the student growth data are teacher performance indicators.

VDOE also argued that the placement of commas in the portion of the state code supported their argument that SGPs, whether used or not, are part of a teacher’s confidential personnel file.

The Virginia Supreme Court said it agreed with VDOE’s interpretation of the code and that the SGPs Davison requested, per state code, were confidential.

The Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court “erred in ordering the production of these documents containing teachers’ identifiable information.”

“[T]he phrase ‘or other data used by the local school board’ is independent of and does not modify ‘teacher performance indicators,’” Powell wrote in her opinion. “Applying these rules of grammar to Code § 22.1-295.1(C), we find that the word ‘used’ refers solely to ‘other data’ and not to ‘teacher performance indicators.’ The information in the SGPs are teacher performance indicators and disclose identifiable teacher information, including teacher names and license numbers.”

Justice Powell also ruled that because VDOE is the public body and custodian of the records Davison sought, “it was [an] error for the circuit court to order that the School Board share in the attorney’s fees and costs.”

Powell said the circuit court needed to reconsider whether to award attorney fees to Davison and, if so, decide on an appropriate amount.

In recent years, Davison has become a familiar face in courts around the commonwealth.

Over the last two years, he has filed three separate civil rights lawsuits against the Loudoun Board of Supervisors and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman (R) and the Loudoun County School Board for either blocking him from their Facebook pages or deleting critical comments he posted. All of those suits against Loudoun officials have been heard in federal court and have either been appealed by Davison or the defendants.

Following the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion, Davison told the Times-Mirror that he plans to ask for a rehearing of its ruling.

"I would challenge the Virginia Supreme Court to find a single high school AP or collegiate English teacher who agrees with their grammatical interpretation,” Davison said. “The public should note that this ruling came from the same court that ruled whites and blacks could not marry in Loving v. Virginia and that Chinese and whites could not marry in Naim v. Naim."

Altogether, Davison says VDOE provided him with about five million individual records, which he has analyzed. He has publicized his findings on his “Virginia SGP” Facebook page.

VDOE spokesman Charles Pyle told the Times-Mirror that the department’s concern over the release of the data all along has been the privacy of students.

“It’s not a question of the intent of the requester. It’s a question of whether it would be possible for someone to use that information in combination with other publicly available information to identify other individual students,” Pyle said, adding that the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion “speaks for itself.”

LCPS declined to comment on the Virginia Supreme Court’s opinion.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.


So Loudoun Resident has now created a new requirement for FOIA. Only if the govt employees, in this case teacher unions, believe the records are “useful” from their omniscient viewpoint should the records be released.  We don’t get to even have a public discussion where differing sides get to make their case. We simply must accept what the naysayers believe even though they refuse to even read the research on the subject.

Sounds like an “open government” to me, eh?

Dante,  You seemed intent on personal attacks and changing the narrative.  We will agree to disagree.

SGP, Many of us, including me, are very appreciative of your efforts.  You have made a significant difference and continue to pull back the curtain.  THANK YOU!

Those test scores do not hold enough meaning to warrant this ridiculous lawsuit.

Something strange is happening again with my comments. 

Concerned.  You would never get the data.  Only Brian gets the data.

Keep in mind that this data only applies to a few classes, not all.  Also remember that is not an predictor of student success later in school and certainly not in college.  Also, the data does not reflect teacher effort or performance. 

So, Brian lost again and this time it cost him.

Concerned.  It is not performance data.  It had nothing to do with performance. 

Also, you would never get the days. 

A better way for you to judge your children’s teachers is to pay attention to how your children do in school.  Get involved.  Talk with the teachers.

We pay the salaries and should have the right to see performance data.

I have never requested nor received any identified student’s score.. Teachers will lie and encourage fraud to prevent parents from evaluating their schools.

Concerned.  If you are actually a parent the you know that the SOL tests in elementary school do not mean anything.  They do not help or hinder college acceptance and do not impact high school courses.  They are merely a single measur of child maturity and aptitude.  You also know that the actual score on any SOL test matters not at all.  Only high school tests matter and only passing them count, not the actual score.  A 450 is as good as a 600 for graduating and for going to college. 

Yet, Brian insists on knowing how you child does on the tests and then would want to praise or condemn your child’s teacher using only this meaningless number.

So, go ahead and tell Brian how you children do on the tests and let him decide if the teachers who care for you kids are good or bad.  I prefer to keep my kids far away from him and I am quite capable of deciding for myself if their teachers are decent.  I don’t need his help or his intrusion.

Dante—-  I have read many posts by you that are personal attacks if not down right abusive.  I am a parent and I hope that you are modeling well for those in your life.  I believe you are trying to change the narrative with respect to performance data.  Many thanks to B.D. for pursuing accountability and your right to free anonymous speech.

Another concerned citizen, as always, LCPS teachers try to mislead. No personal student info was EVER at risk of being revealed. This was only data with the student identities stripped so parents could decide for themselves if LCPS refusal to use this objective data while asserting 99.5%+ of its teachers are effective can be defended. Nobody believes that 99.5% number and if the public had names to attach to teachers at their school, that policy of keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms year after year would likely end soon.

You see, Callme refuses to even allow this data to be compared to the subjective ratings of teachers used currently by LCPS. If you released this data to other teachers, nobody would be surprised at who the bad teachers are. But their hand would be forced.

Concerned citizen - do you have children?  Do you want Brian to know how they perform on SOL tests?

How can you not value the privacy of your family?  How could anyone support Brian knowing so much about our kids?

Thankfully, at least one person is willing to muscle up for some accountability.  The circle around the wagon is quite large.  B.D. has, against many odds, done more than could ever be expected.  Thank you for your time energy, and resources.  Many of us, not in the “system” are very grateful.

Trump -  your post assumes that this information is in anyway related to teacher performance - it is not.  There are way too many factors at play in SOL testing to use these numbers to rate teachers.  Also, while you think this is some sort of union conspiracy, you miss the point that parents do not want Brian or you or anyone else to know about how our kids are doing in schools - it is none of your business - focus on you own children.

BTW - this is what started Brian’s crusade and personal attacks against the schools and county - no one should expect that he will do anything but ramp up his tirades.

Loudoun resident, what is the point? That version wasn’t even in force during the case. Maybe read just a single briefing first.

choco - don’t know about LCPS staff but many of us parents are thrilled to know that our children will be protect from Brian’s failed attempt to solely decide who is a good teacher and who is bad.  He has had plenty of time to work with the data he has with no success and now he adds another legal loss to his name

choco - it is amusing that you support Brian’s attempt to invade the privacy of our children at the same time you advocate for beheading bicyclist.  Talk about working the extremes

Looks like big government judges dont want public employees to be exposed for their incompetence or shortcomings in teaching our kids….typical government union behavior, they dont want to be accountable for anything…

Code of Virginia
Title 22.1. Education
Chapter 15. Teachers, Officers and Employees

§ 22.1-295.1. Employee personnel files; maintenance of employee records;
confidentiality of certain records.

A. Personnel files of all school board employees may be produced and maintained in digital or paper format.

B. Information determined to be unfounded after a reasonable administrative review shall not be maintained in any employee personnel file, but may be retained in a separate sealed file by the administration if such information alleges civil or criminal offenses. Any dispute over such unfounded information exclusive of opinions retained in the personnel file, or in a separate sealed file, notwithstanding the provisions of the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.), shall be settled through the employee grievance procedure as provided in §§ 22.1-306 and 22.1-308 through 22.1-314.

C. Teacher performance indicators or other data collected by or for the Department of Education or the local school board or made available to and able to be used by the local school board to judge the performance or quality of a teacher, maintained in a teacher’s personnel file or otherwise, shall be confidential but may be disclosed, in a form that does not personally identify any student or other teacher, (i) pursuant to court order, (ii) for the purposes of a grievance proceeding involving the teacher, or (iii) as otherwise required by state or federal law. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit the release or to limit the availability of nonidentifying, aggregate teacher performance indicators or other data.

1987, c. 506; 2006, c. 191; 2013, c. 291; 2016, c. 390.

I just wanted to squeeze in here before Brian’s stalkers show up.  Absolutely love LCPS being exposed and all the work being done to do so.  Countdown before LCPS faculty get in here to attack SGP:  3, 2, 1…

In 2016, the Virginia GA modified the law because (as stated in the summary of the bill) “under current law”, the data is not protected unless it is “used to evaluate teachers”. Despite this and the grammatical construction of the statute, the VA Supreme Court found exactly the opposite. We have 3 political bodies in Virginia: governor, GA, and the Supreme Court. With the exception of a few independent judges, our government is set up to thwart FOIA at every single opportunity.

Post a comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments express only the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website or any associated person or entity. Any user who believes a message is objectionable can contact us at ltmeditor@loudountimes.com.

More News

The Loudoun Times-Mirror

is an interactive, digital replica
of the printed newspaper.
Click here for all e-editions.