The Associated Press (AP) reports on BloombergBusinessweek.com that teacher evaluations will be kept secret from most taxpayers after state lawmaker’s passed Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill, giving a major victory to teachers unions, who opposed wider disclosure of the evaluations. Without the bill, all evaluations for teachers and principals would be public, as a result of an earlier court decision ordering their disclosure.
Under the bill, a teacher’s evaluation will only be accessible to the parents and guardians of students in his or her class. However, even with a poor rating, it is difficult for parents and guardians to remove their child from the class. In addition, parents and guardians would not have access to evaluations of teachers outside their child’s classroom, which would otherwise enable them to “shop” for a better teacher the following year.
“The intention of this bill is to avoid media exploitation,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, a Rockland County Democrat who sponsored the bill. She explained the state committed to evaluations and some disclosure when it applied for and accepted more than $700 million in federal funds last year under the Race to the Top competition to improve instruction. She said that under a recent court decision forced by a New York Post lawsuit, teacher evaluations would start to be available beginning August 15th to anyone under the Freedom of Information Act unless this bill was enacted.
The state’s biggest union, the New York State United Teachers Union, called this legislation a win for teacher privacy. “The governor and Legislature did the right thing by stopping the media from distorting and disseminating evaluation results,” said Richard Iannuzzi, President of the New York State United Teachers Union. “This bill accomplishes that goal and preserves the purpose of evaluations, which is to provide opportunity for continued growth and improvement.”
The state senate passed the measure 58-1, while the state assembly passed it 118-17. However, many of those in support felt pressured into voting for the bill because the alternative — full disclosure — would be worse for teachers.
Teachers and their unions were outraged at the release of New York City teacher evaluations in articles that compared the effectiveness of schools. Mayor Michael Bloomberg argued in opposition to the bill, believing that full disclosure was the fastest and most effective way to improve instruction and motivate teachers. Bloomberg said he understood this was a tough issue, but a critical one. “I believe that parents have a right to full disclosure when it comes to information about their child’s education, and I am disappointed that this bill falls short of that goal,” Bloomberg said. “Parents need information to make good decisions about their children’s schools.”
Source: BloombergBusinessweek.com, 6/22/12, By Michael Gormley (AP)
[Editor's Note: In February 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in Bloomberg regarding the release of performance ratings for 17,666 of its more than 70,000 teachers, which were based on student test scores and sociological variables. This data release was in response to an earlier state court decision ordering disclosure.
In September 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article from The New York Times about that decision from the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, which had ruled that performance rankings of thousands of public school teachers, known as Teacher Data Reports, are subject to public disclosure. After the Supreme Court (trial court) ruled in January 2011 that the reports should be released to the public under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, the United Federation of Teachers appealed to the Appellate Division, which upheld the trial court’s decision. The school system then appealed that decision to the New York Court of Appeals, which affirmed the Appellate Division's ruling.]