Tennessee Lawmakers Vote to Keep Teacher Evaluations Secret from Parents

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – For the first time ever, Tennessee is basing a portion of a teacher’s evaluation on student test data.

Test scores will be combined with a principal’s classroom observations to create an overall score for teachers, ranging from 1 (significantly below expectations) to 5 (significantly exceeds expectations).

But parents and taxpayers will not be allowed to see those overall scores, if Republican State Sen. Jim Tracy, gets his way.

Last week, education reform advocates were caught off guard when a last-minute amendment was added to Tracy’s bill, SB 1447, making “all aspects of educators’ new evaluations confidential,” the Tennessean reports.

The bill was passed unanimously by a Senate committee, and will soon be voted on by the full Senate. A similar measure is working its way through the House, and Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, has indicated he will sign the bill into law.

The flurry of legislative activity is in response to a recent announcement from the Tennessee Department of Education that teacher scores would be available to the public under the state’s open records laws.

Anti-transparency lawmakers believe public knowledge of the test scores would be detrimental to teachers and would lead to “teacher shopping” among parents. What could possibly be wrong with caring parents shopping for effective teachers for their kids?

The state’s largest teachers union couldn’t be happier about the legislation.

“Any evaluation system that puts a numerical rating on an employee – that information ought to be between the employee and the employer,” said Tennessee Education Association official Jerry Winters.

Apparently Mr. Winters doesn’t understand that taxpayers are the employer. They pay the salaries of all school employees, and they deserve to know how well a teacher is doing in his or her job.

In fact, Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system was designed and implemented with $501 million in federal Race to the Top funds, which means all Americans qualify as employers and are entitled to see the scores.

“Every study we see concludes that good students are the results of good teachers, and bad teachers take more than a year for students to recover from,” reads a Tennessean editorial. “Parents should be able to arm themselves with any and every tool to ensure their children are getting the best teacher for them.”

And taxpayers should be able to see what kind of return they’re getting on their investments.


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