State makes right call on teacher privacy

It took great political effort on the part of the UFT, NYSUT and Gov. Cuomo, but state legislators finally approved a bill that limits public disclosure of teacher evaluations.

The measure, which was approved on the last scheduled day of the legislative session, will allow parents to view the rating and the composite score of their children’s current teachers. It also will allow the general public to see overall teacher evaluation data by school and in many other versions, but it bars schools from releasing to the public any data that identifies individual teachers and principals.

Approving the measure was the right call for legislators to make. It strikes the correct balance between teachers’ right to privacy and parents’ and the public’s right to know.

This new law became necessary after former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein broke his word to the union that the Department of Education would keep the Teacher Data Reports, then in their inception, private.

No good resulted from the city DOE’s February release of the data reports of about 18,000 teachers who were identified by name. Much of the data was confusing, misleading or just plain wrong. Many educators were unfairly humiliated and anguished, and many parents and school communities were needlessly alarmed.

But the conservative editorial boards of right-wing tabloid newspapers and other critics of public education had a field day with the misleading data and seemed to relish using it to tarnish the reputations of individual educators and schools.

With this issue now resolved, school districts across the state can get on with negotiating specifics of a new teacher evaluation system that will be required to get their share of an increase in state education aid. Districts have until Jan. 17, 2013 to reach agreements.

New York City educators should note the fact that the UFT’s political clout played an important role in this outcome. It serves as just another example of how important it is for members to support our Committee on Political Education (COPE), the union’s political arm.

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