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Debate Over Public Use of State’s Teacher Evaluation Data to Be Heard at FOI Hearing

Debate Over Public Use of State’s Teacher Evaluation Data to be Heard at FOI Hearing

The Freedom of Information Commission will weigh in later in the month on whether or not raw collective teacher evaluation data in Connecticut should be public information, The Hartford Courant said.

As more and more states make changes to teacher evaluation systems to increase effectiveness in providing meaningful feedback, more and more controversy has arisen on what the best way to do so is.

According to the Center for Public Education, over two-thirds of states have made significant changes to teacher evaluation systems, and with these changes many have had to decide whether or not to make the evaluation data public information.

Allowing teacher evaluation data to be public is especially controversial "because the way teachers are evaluated is itself a source of much dispute. If you're a teacher who believes the evaluation system is unfair, it feels especially unfair to be publicly labeled a "bad teacher" on the basis of an unreliable assessment,” says SPLC.org

This unfairness is specifically referring to the current practice of teacher evaluations being tied to student scores on state standardized tests- a separate and equally controversial issue in itself.

Since public education issues are largely determined on a state and local level, the availability of teacher evaluation data varies on a state-by-state basis.

According to SPLC, “[a]ccess to records reflecting teachers' job performance is, like all access issues, dependent on the fine print of each state's open-records statute. In some states, such as Florida, the law strongly presumes that all records -- even personnel files -- are a matter of public interest and subject to public inspection. Other states put a higher premium on the privacy of potentially embarrassing material contained in those records.”

As a result, many states have had their fair share of disputes over the public release of teacher evaluation data, and Connecticut is the next one in line to have its policy on the matter challenged.

According to The Courant, New Milford Board of Education member John W. Spatola is battling against Superintendent Dr. JeanAnn Paddyfote for raw numbers- not individualized evaluations- concerning how many teachers in each school received the state’s rankings of exemplary, proficient, developing or below standard.

“Spatola says he's not looking for names and said he asked only for the number of teachers given each rating. 'I believed then as I do now that this data is public information and that, as an elected Member of the Board of Ed, I cannot fulfill my duties without having access to it,' Spatola wrote in his appeal,” the article said.

While his argument might seem reasonable enough to the impartial observer, Paddyfote says his request is in direct violation of a Connecticut statute passed in 1984 that says “ “[a]ny records maintained or kept on file by any local or regional board of education which are records of teacher performance and evaluation shall not be deemed to be public records.”

But Spatola says that as taxpayer and member of the Board of Education, he cannot fulfill his job without any data as reference.

On Nov. 30, the case will be heard in front of Freedom of Information commission officer where both parties will argue their side.

The Courant says that “[t]eacher groups in the past have asserted that evaluation data should be used confidentially to improve teaching skills and not to shame individual educators or school districts, and certainly The New Milford Teachers Association and the Connecticut Education Association have spoken out against Spatola’s request.

 

Read the full story here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

11/02/2015

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