Assemblywoman Sandy Galef is introducing a bill that would make it illegal for school districts to make available to students, parents, or others (including news media) the evaluations of individual classroom teachers’ performance and the documents used to generate those evaluations. The documents will be considered a confidential part of a teacher’s personnel record, so they may remain useful as a tool to enhance the abilities of teachers to educate our students.
The proposed law tries to strike a balance between the public’s desire to know more about the competence of their teachers, and the school’s need to keep these records confidential to better work with the faculty to improve performance. Galef noted, “Publishing individual records has sometimes been referred to as publicly shaming teachers into being better teachers. Apart from the public scrutiny involved, I believe it is unlikely to work. My own experience as an educator has shown that a school is apt to be more successful if the principal can move the faculty around, matching strengths with needs, can experiment with new structures, support new teachers, enhance and promote new skills for more experienced teachers, and generally promote good morale so that everyone feels they are part of a team working together to maintain and/or create a vibrant school.” Galef went on, “I do not believe that making teachers’ individual scores public will achieve these results. Instead, it may have the unintended consequence of making teachers nervous and competitive in a way that will not be productive. There is a reason that personnel records are kept private in every other line of work. Teachers should not be excluded from these protections.”
Galef nevertheless recognizes that there is a clear need for schools to be accountable. She feels that publishing a summary of the aggregate figures for all the teachers in a school is potentially both meaningful and helpful. The proposed law explicitly provides that schools can release data on the aggregate results of their performance evaluations.
There are two exceptions to the proposed new restrictions. One would allow a teacher’s evaluation to be made available with that teacher’s written permission, and the other would allow access by court order.