December 27, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Albany, NY – Settling a lawsuit by the New York State United Teachers, the state Education Department agreed Dec. 19 that it will not punish teachers who talk about questions on the state’s standardized tests, as long as the questions have been publicly released.
The union had brought the suit in federal court in 2014 after the state mandated that teachers scoring its English and math tests for students in grades 3-8 sign a confidentiality agreement that said they could be fired or face criminal charges if they discussed any part of the tests that had not been publicly released. It contended that the order violated their free-speech rights to contribute to the public debate on standardized tests. “Teachers are the professionals in the classroom,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee. “Their voice is essential to public debate about the state’s testing system, especially when they believe test questions are unfair or inappropriate.” Under the settlement, approved by U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel, the Education Department will state on its Website that the confidentiality agreements apply only to test materials that haven’t been publicly released, and the state will pay $10,000 in legal fees for the five teachers who were plaintiffs. Read more