Weekend Deal on NY Teacher Evaluations Expected

The deal isn't expected to make evaluations publicly available

By Michael Gormley
|  Saturday, Jun 16, 2012  |  Updated 12:19 PM EDT
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Weekend Deal on NY Teacher Evaluations Expected

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New York parents will see for the first time the job evaluations of the teachers who instruct their children under a deal expected soon.

Parents won't get a detailed performance review, but rather broad categories such as "highly effective," and "ineffective."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Senate's Republican majority and the Assembly's Democratic majority were expected to agree on a bill in closed-door negotiations with staff by a deadline Monday night, with the Legislature voting by the end of this year's regular session Thursday.

The deal isn't expected to make evaluations publicly available.

That's a win for the powerful teachers' unions, which have fought to protect teachers' privacy. Even Cuomo, who had pushed for the creation of teacher evaluations, argues that such reports aren't released for any other group of public employees.

"Teacher evaluations can be viewed as the equivalent of a Carfax report, empowering parents to attempt to avoid the 'lemons'," said B. Jason Brooks of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group.

"No family should be expected to keep their children in a class for an entire year led by a bad teacher who has received a poor evaluation," Brooks said. "And no parent should face the prospect of having their child moving up to a class where a teacher has received a poor evaluation."

The New York Post, usually supportive of Cuomo proposals in its editorials, warned this agreement would be "just one more Albany back-room deal" that doesn't go far enough.

"This deprives citizens of vital data that could help them decide where to live and which schools are best for their children," the newspaper said in an editorial Friday. "Better to have the state make all the data public — a move repeatedly approved by the courts — so that parents and the public can access it and know to trust it."

The union said public release of evaluations would have a "chilling effect" on honest, constructive reviews.

"The whole purpose of New York's new teacher evaluation law is to improve teacher effectiveness and enhance student learning," said Carl Korn of the New York United Teachers union. "Releasing teachers' ratings publicly would undermine the new law."

But keeping the evaluations from the public also keeps parents, education advocates, lawmakers and the news media from a potentially powerful tool to rate schools and test the accuracy of the reports shown to parents.

"There should be disclosure," said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, to WOR radio in New York City on Friday. "The question is, how do you strike the balance between the parent's right to know, and some protection for teachers in terms of broad-based disclosure of the evaluation?"

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the information will be aimed at parents, not the broader public.

"I believe it will just be for parents," Silver said Friday. "When people move into a neighborhood, you can't go up to a police department and say, 'I want to see the evaluations of all the police officers in this precinct, or all the fire protective people, or all the sanitation workers.' Yet we treat education specially."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said full public disclosure would best improve schools.

"We should have all of the data out there," Bloomberg said.

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