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Queens Chronicle

Pols limit access to teacher evals

Cuomo says new law will protect educators’ privacy

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Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 10:30 am

Queens education officials and legislators threw their support behind a bill Gov. Cuomo signed into law Monday that limits the public’s access to teacher evaluations, saying the move will protect educators’ privacy while still allowing parents to see the ratings.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, slammed the law, saying it shields important information from the public.

“In comparison to the teacher evaluations that came out earlier in the year, this is more fair and equitable,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said in reference to the governor’s bill, which mandates that an educator’s evaluation only be available, with the teacher’s name attached, to the parents or guardians of children in that instructor’s class.

Members of the general public will be able to access the annual evaluations, but without the teachers’ names.

Cuomo pushed legislators to pass the bill after a New York Post lawsuit forced the city to make the evaluations, which included the names of about 18,000 teachers and assessments of them based upon their students’ standardized test scores, public for the first time last February. The Senate passed the measure 58-1, and the Assembly voted in favor of it 118-17.

“This law strikes the right balance between a teacher’s right to privacy and the parents’ and public’s right to know,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.

Still, Bloomberg railed against the law, saying it keeps the public in the dark —including parents who want to know the ratings for teachers their child could have the following year.

“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 in a prepared statement. “Evaluations are important resources for parents, principals and teachers alike, and parents need information to make good decisions about their children’s schools.”

The mayor was so irate that he announced in his weekly radio show last Friday that he plans on requiring city schools to call every parent or guardian with the ratings for their child’s teacher.

“We’ll make sure that every parent gets the information, whether they would have called or not,” Bloomberg said on the show.

Cuomo said he believes “the final bill reflects much of [Bloomberg’s] perspective.”

The release of the assessments earlier this year was controversial, and officials with the city Department of Education, as well as the United Federation of Teachers, have stressed the reports’ wide margins of error —35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading instructors, on average.

In addition, legislators and educators raised concerns about releasing teachers’ names, and the UFT has documented a number of reports of instructors being harassed at their homes because of the data.

For example, the teachers’ union reported that an educator at PS 11 in Woodside, who received one of the lowest scores in the city, had to call the police a number of times to get reporters to leave the area outside her home.

Isaac Carmignani, president of Community Education Council 30, which covers schools in western Queens, including PS 11, said he too agreed with the law.

“It sounds better than what we had,” Carmignani said. “They were releasing information that was meant to be internal and an evaluation tool.”

A number of high-ranking education officials have thrown their support behind the bill, including state Education Commissioner John King Jr. and Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

“Teacher and principal evaluations help teachers and principals improve their practice, which in turn helps students improve their performance,” King said in a prepared statement. “Public disclosure of individual ratings would just get in the way of that progress. Chancellor Tisch, the Board of Regents and I have repeatedly stressed our opposition to the disclosure of individual ratings.”

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