When it comes to releasing principal and teacher evaluations, area school districts are walking a “tightrope” between privacy and state law.
After reviewing and ranking principal and teacher performance, districts are required to make that information available to parents and guardians.
But what if the information gets posted on Facebook or they tell others?
“We’re trying to walk that tightrope right now with the (Annual Professional Performance Review) with following the regulation and respecting privacy,” said Robert Miller, Herkimer Central School District superintendent. “I’ve got personnel and students and families that all deserve the right to privacy.”
Though the state requires the information be made available, how it’s given to parents is up to the districts, a process about which many still are conferring with their attorneys.
Area district polices range from one-on-one meetings with the building principals to a letter in the mail.
Legislation was enacted in 2012 to create a more comprehensive and rigorous teacher and principal evaluation system. Teachers and principals receive between one and 100 points to put them in the following rating categories: ineffective, developing, effective and highly effective.
Districts were required to report their scores to the state Education Department by Friday.
The state assessments for the evaluation include the Common Core Curriculum. State test scores released this summer showed that nearly 70 percent of students statewide failed.
“Teacher evaluations will be based in part on student test scores that came before the students were even taught the material,” said Carl Korn, spokesman for the New York State Union of Teachers. “In many cases the data for students and teacher is useless and meaningless.”
Many hope parents will understand if teacher scores are lower for that reason, though evaluation results cannot be used to remove a student from a classroom.
In June 2012, legislation was enacted to limit public disclosure of the teacher evaluations after an incident where news agencies published databases and analyses of New York City’s worst and best teachers — information obtained through Freedom of Information requests.
The public is only privy to data with the names of the teachers removed — data that will be released by the state Education Department later this year.
Many area districts require parents to sign a form requesting the information and then either send the ratings in a letter in the mail or hand them to the parents after a meeting with the building principal, who will explain the rating system.
Some area districts, however, are being increasingly wary of how they’re releasing the information so it’s not shared.
For example Vernon-Verona-Sherrill and New Hartford Central school districts decided that parents and guardians must request the information and sign a form stating that the information is for private use, and then will be given the evaluation scores verbally through a meeting with their child’s principal.
Page 2 of 2 - But if the information is shared, districts will have to cross that road when they get to it.
“This has not been tested,” said Jay Worona, New York State School Boards Association general counsel. “This is so brand new we don’t have any track record.”
Worona said he wasn’t sure what authority the districts would have in privacy enforcement, or if there could be legal actions taken if parents sign a privacy form and then share the information.
The Utica City School District is working with labor attorneys to ensure its system is “fair and equitable,” said Lori Eccleston, director of curriculum and instruction.
“Over the next couple of weeks we should have something up and running and be able to accommodate with a good security process in place,” she said.
Teachers are rated with 60 percent coming from a state-approved practice rubric, including observations and evaluations; 20 percent from growth on state or local tests; and 20 percent based on locally established measures of student achievement. Each state-approved Annual Professional Performance Review varies by district. Teachers and principals receive between one and 100 points to put them in the following rating categories:
Highly effective: Results and overall performance are well above state average, district expectations and exceed standards; 91 to 100 points.
Effective: Results and overall performance meet state average, district expectations and standards; 75 to 90 points.
Developing: Results and overall performance are below state average, district expectations and need improvement; 65 to 74 points.
Ineffective: Results and overall performance are well-below state average, district expectations and do not meet standards; 0 to 64 points.