The Los Angeles Times should remove teacher performance ratings from its website after the apparent suicide of a teacher despondent over his score, the union representing Los Angeles school teachers said Tuesday.
United Teachers Los Angeles also has asked school administrators to join with them in the request to the newspaper, which published the ratings last month, union president AJ Duffy said.
The body of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., a fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, was found Sunday at the foot of a remote forest bridge in what appears to be a suicide.
The motive for Ruelas taking his own life is far from clear. But union officials said he had been upset since the Times published his district ranking as a "less effective" teacher based on his students' standardized English and math test scores.
Ruelas scored "average" in getting his students up to acceptable levels in English, but "less effective" in math and "less effective" overall. The school itself ranked as "least effective" in raising test scores, and only five of Miramonte's 35 teachers were ranked as high as average.
The rankings were contained in a database analyzing seven years of student test score data for students taught by 6,000 third- to fifth-grade teachers.
In a statement, the newspaper extended its condolences to the family and said it published the database "because it bears directly on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to judge the data for themselves."
The publication of individual rankings sparked widespread outrage among teachers. The rankings ranged from least and less effective to average, more effective and most effective.
The union protested in front of the newspaper's downtown headquarters and called for a boycott of the Times, which published the rankings as part of a push for a better method to evaluate teacher effectiveness.
Although other factors may have been at play in Ruelas' death, union official Mathew Taylor said Monday that he believed the ranking was a contributing factor based on conversations with teachers at the school. Principals have been using the rankings to crack down on teachers, he said.
"He was a very well-respected teacher," Taylor said. "He took the pressure being applied to him to heart."
Ruelas was last seen Sept. 19 when he dropped off a birthday gift for his sister. He notified the school to get a substitute for his classes Monday and Tuesday, but he did not return to work Wednesday and his family reported him missing.