Teaching Profession

Are Teacher Evaluations Public? Assessing the Landscape

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 06, 2013 1 min read
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In the wake of several states releasing large sets of “value added” data on individual teachers to media outlets in the past few years, I wrote a widely read story for Education Week on whether formal teacher-evaluation records are publicly accessible. We found quite a lot of variation in the scope of states’ open-records laws.

A lot has changed since 2012, with at least five states altering their laws since the story ran. So we wanted to give you a sense of where things stand now.

Tennessee, previously a state in which evaluation results were open, passed a bill in 2012 that closes evaluations off from public disclosure.

New York legislators, in June, passed a law narrowing eligibility for accessing these records. The bill specifies that, on request, parents can view the final effectiveness rating for each teacher in the building to which a student is assigned.

Though case law in Massachusetts already tilted in this direction, a law signed last June explicitly puts teacher evaluations under the definition of “personnel information” exempt from disclosure under open-records laws.

Utah passed a billin March 2012 (just days after our earlier story went to press) strengthening existing prohibitions on the release of personnel evaluations.

UPDATED, May 15, 9:00 a.m.: Thanks to New Jersey officials for reminding us of this change. New Jersey‘s teacher-evaluation-reform law, passed last August, also requires evaluations to be confidential and not released to the public.

Readers brought to our attention laws under education code, rather than open-records code, in Georgia and Arizona prohibiting the release of evaluations, so we’ve updated the data for those states, too.

Keep in mind that some of these states, Utah and New York among them, require the aggregate reporting of scores on district report cards, usually by the percent of teachers in each category.

In the meantime, action in this area of policy continues to bubble. There’s debate in Utah over apparently conflicting language in its statutes and a Florida measure seeking to exempt the release of growth-measure datais stuck in a house committee.

As always, let us know if we’ve missed something.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.