How public should school employees' evaluations be?

In the name of "education reform," and "accountability," the Legislature decided last year that student standardized test scores had to be a factor in teacher and administration evaluations. Their move is now raising some interesting questions: How public should the information on individual teacher and administrator evaluations be? What is the public entitled to know?

A reporter with the southeast Michigan Heritage Newspapers filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the results of a Willow Run's principal evaluation. The Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) denied the request on the grounds that the information was personal.

With the legislative requirement to overhaul teacher evaluation systems, new programs are currently being piloted across the state. Will that mean a whole rash of FOIA requests to see which specific teachers are rated ineffective? Is that fair? Right now, personnel records of public school teachers and administrators--including performance evaluations--are public records and available through a FOIA request on the local level.

The Michigan Department of Education is opposed to individual teacher names being released when it comes to evaluations--especially since there is no standard evaluation instrument in place right now. Any information MDE aggregates will identify percentages of teachers in each performance category with no names attached.

Education Trust Midwest, a group promoting effective educator evaluations agrees. "We're against individual results being released because it runs counter to our position that evaluation is meant to raise the game of teachers, not to embarrass them or make people less willing to enter the profession," said David Zeman, Education Trust Midwest spokesman.

The answer to how public evaluation information should be may have to be answered by the courts.