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States Move to Close Off Teacher Evaluations

Tennessee is poised to pass a law exempting teachers' evaluations from broad disclosure under the state's open-records laws. And next up could be the state of New York, where a similar proposal is under discussion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Last weekI wrote this piece for Education Week pointing out that this information could be made available in 18 states and the District of Columbia, under open-records laws.

As I explained in that story, this is quite a complex issue. While there appears to be a general consensus emerging among education movers and shakers that newspapers shouldn't publish teacher-performance information wholesale, opinion seems to be more divided on whether parents should have the ability to access these evaluations. (They can already view teachers' qualifications, for instance.)

Tennessee is taking a fairly aggressive stance on the issue, since under its proposal, it appears that only school officials would get to view the evaluations. In New York, lawmakers appear to want to find a way to permit parents a degree of access.

"Information and evaluation should be out there for parents to know," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who will likely spearhead any such policy, said on a radio broadcast. "But beyond the parents, I'm not sure."

It's hard to know exactly how other states will thread the policy needle on this topic, but it bears watching. In many states, this issue seems to be one open-records request away from a lawsuit. Stay tuned.

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