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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Wall Street Journal On Publicizing Teacher Evaluations

Deal on Teachers Nears

Question in Evaluations Compromise Is Whether Parents Are 

Dealt In or Cut Out

As state lawmakers neared a deal to shield public schoolteachers' evaluations
from widespread scrutiny, New York's top politicians split over whether the measure would shut out parents or bring them closer to schools.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg condemned as an "outrage" a potential
agreement in Albany that would allow only parents to see the evaluation of their
child's teacher—and only by visiting schools themselves.
"If the parents have to go to the principal's office to see an evaluation, it is
designed deliberately to keep the average parents that we have in the city
from ever seeing an evaluation," Mr. Bloomberg said in his weekly radio
appearance. He argued that single-parent families and those with two working
parents would be hard-pressed to gain access to the information.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
framed the in-person requirement
as a way to boost parent
involvement. Schools with involved parents fare better, he said Friday,
suggesting that encouraging parental visits would end up improving the schools.
"My parents went to the school when they had to do something—talk to the
Mr. Silver said. "When parents go and find out things and parents are involved in a child's education, that school is going to succeed."
A deal limiting the availability of teacher evaluations is likely to be finalized this
weekend, according to several people familiar with the negotiations. The new
rules, if passed, would block the general public and the media from seeing the

Interactive: Grading the Teachers

New York City ranked about 18,000 fourth- through eighth-grade teachers based on their students' math and English standardized test scores. The model seeks to isolate individual impact on students, but the reports include disputed data and are only one way to evaluate teachers.
Teachers unions have been pushing
to keep the evaluations private, an
effort that accelerated after New York
City released the results of a pilot teacher-rating system.
Rankings of about 18,000 teachers
came out in February after courts
refused to block the release.
Talk of changing the law to protect teachers began in earnest after media
organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, published those results. The
statewide teacher-evaluation system would be very different than the city's pilot program, with most of the weight put on principals' opinions and other subjective measures.
Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, controls which bills get passed in the Assembly
and counts teachers unions as key supporters. Mr. Bloomberg, by contrast, has
been a staunch supporter of releasing the data and frequently clashes with the
city's main teachers union.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried to walk a middle ground. Throughout the months-long debate on the issue, he has emphasized the need to give parents
access to the ratings while questioning why teachers are treated differently than
police and firefighters, whose evaluations are private by law.
"How come you're only singling out teachers?" the governor said Thursday on a
radio show. "Where's the policemen's evaluation? Where's the firemen's evaluation? Where's the evaluation of the mayor's staff, and the governor's staff and the
speaker's staff?"
Mr. Bloomberg addressed that distinction Friday, noting that residents don't get to choose which emergency personnel respond in a crisis. The mayor praised the
idea of allowing parents to request one teacher over another based on their ratings, sometimes referred to as "teacher shopping."
"Isn't that wonderful?" Mr. Bloomberg said. "Why, as a parent, would you not
want to have the best teacher?"
Principals and teachers unions have said shopping would cause problems if
school administrators had to deal with a crush of requests from parents to
change teachers.
"Schools have to function smoothly, and that would interfere," said Carl
Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers.
Write to Lisa Fleisher at