Why Teacher Evaluations Are None of Your Business

by Categorized: Education, Transparency/FOI Date:

Politicians at the state Capitol plan to continue duking it out over how Connecticut teachers will be evaluated, including the role that student and parent feedback will play. But one group that will never see those teacher evals: students and parents.

Connecticut is among the most transparent states in the nation when it comes to public employees, with laws and a powerful Supreme Court ruling that makes it clear that citizens have the right to know about the job performance of those whose salaries they pay.

But the state’s expansive freedom-of-information laws contain a particular loophole large enough to drive a school bus through.

In 1984, the state Freedom of Information Commission, on a complaint brought by the Journal-Inquirer newspaper in Manchester, ruled that teacher evaluations were fair game. Legislators, aghast at the prospect that residents would find out about the qualifications of their kids’ teachers, rushed to draft a bill exempting “records of teacher performance and evaluation.”

Groups representing teachers and boards of education – often on opposite sides of legislative fights – lined up arm-in-arm to support secrecy. Proponents argued that evaluators wouldn’t be honest if there was a chance the public would see what they had to say. Others said parents would “teacher-shop” and jockey to get their children in certain classes if they knew who the good teachers were.

Those arguments won out over pleas for transparency, and in a moment of legislative exuberance, politicians defined the word “teacher” to include all certified professionals below the level of superintendent. So evaluations of assistant superintendents? School principals? All off limits.

In Connecticut, as elsewhere, the debate rages over new measures of accountability for teachers. Just not accountability to the public.

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4 thoughts on “Why Teacher Evaluations Are None of Your Business

  1. Vacalao

    The absurdity of concealing public employees evaluations – especially those of employees we trust to teach our children – is overwhelming. I’m a retired teacher who has witnessed coverups involving faculty members and students, and I believe children have an inherent right to be protected against abuse.
    I would gladly sacrifice a bit of privacy if it helped ensure student safety, and I would have no qualms about my evaluations being made public – with one condition. A nasty or vindictive principal (and bad teachers all too often become bad principals, at least in other states) can be an unfair and formidable foe. To ensure fairness, teachers should be able to add comments about anything they disagree with. It just seems like common sense. Don’t parents have a right to know? And exactly what do we need to cover up?

    Reply
    1. Dee

      All parents have the right to know the background and evaluation information about anyone who has contact with their children. For some reason most people in the educational system seem to think they don’t have to share the information with parents. Sweeping the info under the rug or covering it up, makes it very suspect and this practice must stop. Coming from an educator, your blog is worthy of a standing’O’!

      Reply
  2. ÿþM

    There are some fascinating cut-off dates in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity but I’ll take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as well

    Reply
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