Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa just set a new date, November 4, for releasing the statewide results of math and English Language Acquisition (ELA) exams taken last spring by students in grades 3-8. It comes in reaction to the Empire Center’s September 26 appeal challenging her agency’s September 23 determination that it would not respond to the nonprofit’s original September 8 request for the data until January 31, 2023.
But the data should have been made public months ago — as it was each year in the past. And there’s nothing in Rosa’s letter that explains the delay or why it’s being prolonged.
Rosa’s appeal response says that NYSED needs more time — but not quite so much as it originally requested — primarily because, “Petitioner’s FOIL request involves the review of numerous records and files by the IRS (NYSED’s Information and Reporting Service).”
Only, it doesn’t.
NYSED has had the full exam results since it released them in tranches to parents and schools back in August. Its only rationale for not simultaneously making that data fully public in aggregate form (as it always did in the past) is its sudden, arbitrary and inexplicable decision in a June memo to re-designate it as “preliminary,” and therefore unfit for public release (but still ok to give parents and schools).
It’s that decision — authored by an official in her own agency — that Rosa should have reviewed and reversed, because it sets a precedent that could be used in the future to withhold virtually any public dataset otherwise subject to FOIL.
Sadly, the withholding of this particular dataset is especially damaging because it contains information about the nature and extent of pandemic learning loss that should be informing the public debate over how that loss is remedied, including via the $9 billion in federal pandemic relief aid alone provided to New York schools via the American Rescue Plan.