Albany lawmakers consider whether state teacher evaluations should be made public
Negotiations are underway in Albany over whether new, legally required evaluations of school teachers will be made public. YNN's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo used the state budget to compel school districts to adopt new teacher evaluations. He did this by offering a four percent increase in state aid only to those districts that embrace them.
Not settled in the budget is whether or not those evaluations should be public information.
"The arguments for it are, the parents have to make decisions about where to send their kids. It's not like a police officer where you don't really pick the cop on the beat," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday.
Job evaluations are also done for firefighters and police officers, but those are exempt from public disclosure. The governor has previously said that while teachers also have privacy rights, there needs to be balance.
"My inclination is the parent has a right to know the evaluation information of the teacher. So I think the parents right to know is important and should be protected," the governor said on March 27.
In February, Freedom of Information requests from YNN and other news organizations resulted in 18,000 teacher rankings being made public. Their disclosure came after a lengthy court battle with the teachers union.
Outgoing Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari cautions that teachers need to be listened to in this debate.
"I think to some extent we are putting a lot on teachers and they have enough on their plate already," said Canestrari. "I think we have to tread very carefully to ensure that some privacy and professional credentials are respected as well."
In a statement, New York State United Teachers, the state educators' union, says, "Our position is clear: NYSUT deplores the tabloid media's misuse and distortion of teacher and student test data. It is wrong and it potentially undermines everything we are doing in New York to advance quality evaluations."
The union claims not only do professionals have a right to have their job evaluations kept private, but public disclosure raises concerns about the evaluations being less than honest.
According to NYSUT, 20 states currently shield evaluation scores from public viewing.