The Federal Administrative Court does not see the use of teacher data in the evaluation app “Lernsieg” in contradiction to the data protection act. One complaint was dismissed.
According to the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG), the controversial teacher evaluation app “Lernsieg”, in which students can anonymously rate their teachers or schools with one to five stars, does not contradict the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A HTL teacher saw his right to secrecy violated, his complaint has now been dismissed. The data protection authority had already rated the app as compliant with data protection at the beginning of 2020. Civil proceedings are still ongoing.
Database with around 90,000 teachers
A database with around 90,000 teachers and the corresponding schools was created for the app. After registering, schoolchildren can rate their educators from the AHS lower level or new middle school (NMS) in categories such as teaching, fairness, preparation or punctuality with one to five stars. Rankings are then also created from this. The app is currently offline until further notice, as, according to the operators, they are working together with a teaching committee to improve the app.
In its current decision, the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG) dismissed the HTL teacher’s complaint against a decision by the data protection authority, arguing that the interests of the general public and especially the students should be valued higher than those of the teachers concerned, especially where his professional and not his privacy is affected. Before deciding on a new or future school, parents and children have a legitimate interest in the quality of the education there and the assessment of the teaching quality of individual teachers. The app also gives students the opportunity to praise teaching methods or to point out grievances and criticisms.
There is little risk of multiple or incorrect evaluations
The BVwG, on the other hand, rates the risk of multiple or incorrect evaluations complained about as low. Mechanisms such as verification by telephone number and the restriction to one evaluation per teacher and telephone number would make this “cumbersome and extremely time-consuming”. The question of whether the teacher data was also collected in compliance with data protection regulations was not dealt with by the BVwG.
The teachers’ union had raged against the app from the start, including concerns about data protection and locating a “huge mobile phone number collection”. In addition to complaints to the data protection authority, the GÖD also combats the app via civil action, demanding that the data be omitted and deleted. In two cases, the claims for action were rejected by the Vienna Regional Court for Civil Law Matters in the spring, and the union appealed against them.
App founder pleased
App founder Benjamin Hadrigan expressed his satisfaction with the current BVwG decision in a written statement. It is incomprehensible why the teachers’ union refuses to this day “to work constructively with us on a common solution to improve educational transparency in Austria”. At the same time there is a “not insignificant number of teachers” who work with the app makers. In addition, there are talks with pilot schools who want to actively use the app in class “and thus actively set an example for more transparency”.
In view of the many lawsuits from the teachers’ union, Hadrigan recently started a fundraising campaign to finance the “learning victory” trials against the teachers. To date, of course, “every single complaint and every procedure has been won,” stressed Hadrigan. This assessment cannot be understood by the union. “I can’t confirm that,” said the top teachers’ union Paul Kimberger (FCG) to the APA.
Union sees “learning victory” app in its current form as inadmissible
In contrast to the current administrative proceedings of the HTL teacher, according to the GÖD statement, it was established in the civil law proceedings of the union that “learning victory” in the present form is legally inadmissible. At the moment, an evaluation of teachers by people who were not taught by them at all cannot be ruled out. According to Kimberger, the teachers are not generally against evaluation, there is already one. However, the app maker Hadrigan must ensure that the reviewers are identified, emphasized Kimberger. The statement, according to which “learning victory” should be absolutely permissible, is in any case “misleading and incorrect”, is emphasized in the GÖD statement. A final decision has not yet been made in the civil law proceedings; three of the proceedings are currently being appealed and one is being revised.