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Queens Chronicle

Queenswide: State pols vote to limit public's access to teacher evaluations

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Posted: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:53 pm

State legislators overwhelmingly supported Gov. Cuomo’s bill to restrict public access to teacher evaluations on Thursday — a move panned by Mayor Bloomberg but cheered by the United Federation of Teachers.

The governor’s bill, prompted by the public dissemination of teacher ratings last February, mandates that an educator’s evaluation will only be available to the parents or guardians of children in that instructor’s class. A New York Post lawsuit had 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 this 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 Senate passed the measure 58-1, and the Assembly voted in favor of it 118-17.

The release of the assessments earlier this year was controversial, and city Department of Education officials 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 a teacher 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.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said the legislation ensures “that parents can have information about their children’s teachers, while helping to prevent the kind of vilification of teachers that resulted from Mayor Bloomberg’s insistence on releasing the misleading and inaccurate teacher data reports [this] year.”

Despite Bloomberg’s criticism of the measure passed Thursday, Cuomo said he believes “the final bill reflects much of his perspective.”

“I believe it strikes the right balance between protecting teacher privacy and a parent’s right to know,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement.

State Education Commissioner John King Jr. also threw his support behind the bill.

“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 [Merryl] Tisch, the Board of Regents and I have repeatedly stressed our opposition to the disclosure of individual ratings.”

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