By Ashleigh Costello
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Two recently introduced bills have Rhode Island lawmakers debating whether teacher evaluations should be kept confidential from the public.
State Sen. Hanna Gallo and state Rep. Jeremiah O’Grady have each submitted a bill that would amend the state’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) to exempt teacher evaluations from public disclosure, reports WPRI.com.
State lawmakers amended the public records law last year in an attempt to be more transparent. The most significant change removed the exemption for personally identifiable records unless such public disclosure would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
The proposed changes come as the state launches a new controversial teacher and administrator evaluation system. Under the new system, a teacher’s effectiveness will be judged by student performance, classroom observations and student learning objectives.
Teachers and teachers unions statewide have lambasted the system, arguing the new assessments focus too much on test scores and ignore poverty and other issues that affect student performance.
However, it’s more likely the case that ineffective teachers are worried they will not measure up and teachers unions have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said she supports keeping teacher evaluations confidential.
“We believe personnel evaluations are currently exempt under the public-records act, and this language would make that exemption explicit,” spokesman Elliot Krieger stated via email.
Gallo’s bill is scheduled to go before the Senate Judiciary Thursday afternoon for a hearing, according to the news site.
Hopefully lawmakers will stick to their pledge to be more transparent. Parents deserve to know how their child’s teacher measures up against the rest and students deserve to get the best education available. It’s as simple as that.