Albany May Act to Keep Teacher Evaluations Private

The New York Legislature recently passed a law, pushed by Governor Cuomo, that required schools districts throughout the state to come up with new teacher evaluation systems by January or forfeit their state aid increases.

Apparently unions were severely displeased by the recent court-ordered publication of teacher evaluations from 2007 and 2010, the United Federation of Teachers had filed suit to prevent release but failed, and are now lobbying hard for rules that would keep future evaluation rankings out of the public domain.

Assembly Democrats are said to be particularly supportive of keeping the results of future evaluation rankings secret from the public — or at least severely restricting their release.

It's unclear whether Gov. Cuomo would go along with the idea. Mayor Bloomberg has spoken of the importance of letting parents know how effective their kids' teachers are.

One insider with knowledge of the talks called it "Albany at its worst."

The teacher privacy measure would be placed in the budget bill currently being finalized.

A spokesman for the Governor has indicated that the measure would be counterproductive to the purpose of teacher evaluations in that it would reduce crucial public accountability. However the Legislature could end up passing the measure in a bid to placate teaching unions already in uproar over changes to their pension systems.

"This sneak attack on teacher evaluations is also an attempt by lawmakers to make up to the teachers unions for the new . . . pension law," a source said.

The state budget needs to be approved by April 1 and there are concerns over the last minute timing of the bid from the unions to reduce public accountability and protect the poor results of their worst teachers from coming to light under future Freedom of Information requests.

Carl Korn, a spokesman for the state teachers union, would not confirm whether there are talks to keep the teacher evaluations private, but made it clear that's what the union wants.

"We will fight to ensure teachers' privacy is protected and teachers are not shamed or humiliated by the news media," Korn said.

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