Tennessee moves to prevent parents, press from seeing new teacher ratings. Georgia will face this issue, too.

The Tennessean newspaper is reporting that lawmakers there are considering legislation to shield teacher performance scores from parents and the press. The state Department of Education had said earlier that a teacher’s final evaluation score would be made public if sought through an open records request that cleared department attorneys.

The question of releasing teacher ratings has come to the forefront after the information was made public in Los Angeles and New York. Georgia will be faced with this decision eventually as it is now testing a new teacher rating system as part of its Race to the Top grant. If deemed to be open records, as they were in New York, the ratings would have to be made public.

According to the Tennessean:

A new measure is drawing praise from the state’s largest teachers union and disappointment among some observers. In a time of massive education reform, opponents say, parents and the public should get to see how it’s working.

The vote came as a surprise to many. An amendment to keep teachers’ scores confidential was tacked onto a bill that would have done the same for licensure tests administered by the state Department of Commerce and Insurance.

“We knew nothing about it … no advance warning that it was coming,” said Frank Gibson, public policy director for the Tennessee Press Association. “We have basically a revamped and reformed education model, and to close records that might help the public — particularly help parents of schoolkids find out how well that is working — is tragic.”

Jerry Winters, manager of government relations for the Tennessee Education Association, said lawmakers didn’t know final ratings could be subject to public inspection until media reports debating the issue emerged this month.

The TEA has long known that personnel files, including teachers’ final evaluation scores on a 1-5 scale, would be public record under the evaluation law. The group opposes it because many teachers do not have confidence in the scoring process, Winters said.

“Any evaluation system that puts a numerical rating on an employee — that information ought to be between the employee and the employer,” he said. The releasing of scores also would lead to “teacher-shopping” by parents, he said.

“It would be rather chaotic to have the general public trying to manage a school system by deciding based on some numerical ranking which teachers are good ones and which ones are bad ones,” he said. “That’s why you have elected school boards.”

Earlier this month, the Tennessee Department of Education confirmed a teacher’s final evaluation score would be public if parents or the media asked for it through an open records request and that request cleared department attorneys.

The final score is based in part on learning gains made by the teachers’ students — called value-added scores — and those are legally shielded from the public, but there is no law to withhold the final score.

Los Angeles Unified Schools got the first test of broad access to teacher performance in 2010, when the Los Angeles Times released six years of data on learning gains made by individual teachers’ classes. A parents group there said they didn’t experience widespread teacher shopping. New York City media sued the school district and ultimately received teachers’ names, schools and five years of student learning gains on math and English tests earlier this year. That decision raised the question in Tennessee.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

38 comments Add your comment


March 21st, 2012
3:36 pm

Open up the evaluations of other state professions like police, firemen, and court attorneys (i.e. those dominated by men) and the request will have at best some legitimacy for the purposes of informing the public. Otherwise, we will hound and resist that kind of policy with every fibre of our being.

William Casey

March 21st, 2012
3:38 pm

“Teacher Shopping” was already a problem in some places when I retired in 2006. It’s difficult to blame the parents who want the best teachers but many “shopped” for the easiest graders.


March 21st, 2012
3:51 pm

I’m ok with this if:
A cop pulls me over and before we go to court I can review his entire personell record to evaluate his overall performance
If I go to court I want to review the judge’s personell file, and the judicial boards review file
I want to know wher my Dr graduated in his med school class. (even the last in his class is still called DR.)
Before we elect someone I want all there personell files from any previous employment open to the public
And the list could go on and on.
If a teacher is so lousy that they get a one, then fire them. If school districts would get rid of the poor performers the ranking issue would not exist.
Why is it everyone feels it is their right to see a teachers file, but would run to court as fast as they could if it was their information we wanted to see?
And no, I am not, nor have ever, been a teacher.

joe the teacher

March 21st, 2012
4:01 pm

The newspapers and media do not care about public interest in this matter, they just want more people to read/watch their news.

joe the teacher

March 21st, 2012
4:03 pm

If I were to get a great rating, that means I get classrooms crammed wall to wall with students, because I am seen as the teacher that will work with the kids. If I get a poor rating, my job may be in jeopardy. It is getting harder and harder to do this job.

Follow the Course

March 21st, 2012
4:14 pm

Just plain “Do Not Make Public” … too many variables involved to really understand what the score means.

Performance Scores are not all equal and can not be related to one another. I know one has heard of “smoke and mirrors”… well this is it.

Follow the Course

March 21st, 2012
4:23 pm

and then … the NEXT thing would be … “relating performance reviews to pay” … imagine that !!!


March 21st, 2012
4:32 pm

If only it were possible to get an honest non-partasian blue ribbon committee to evaluate our House and Senate members’ performance. Clean house and start over, anyone?


March 21st, 2012
4:56 pm

And so it begins…I teach in a county that is piloting the new GA evaluation (rating) system. From what I am hearing from my peers (I have not yet been observed) it is imperfect & haphazardly applied by poorly trained administrators.
One comment sticks in my craw, this teacher goes out of their way to sponsor a club for the kids with no compensation (a typical scenario in this state unless you are a coach). The teacher got an NI (needs improvement) in an area that should have been exemplary taking the club into consideration. The administrator said since she did not observe it “in the classroom” it would not be part of the evaluation.
So lets extrapolate this, no credit for doing unpaid work that enhances the kids’ learning experience. I guess that will kill off the unfunded (that is a very common term in this state, “unfunded”) clubs. If what I am doing “outside” the classroom, is not considered “teaching”, why will I continue do it? Do the mysoginists realize what they are setting up?


March 21st, 2012
5:15 pm

Is there ANY proposal that would connect performance to results that teachers would support? It seems like information is off limits. Performance based pay is viciously opposed by teachers and thier agents. Every attempt to interrupt the monopoly is charactatured as an assault on the republic.

Can teachers find any accountability measure that they can support?

Parents and taxpayers are sure ready to find one.


March 21st, 2012
5:34 pm

Here’s an idea: teachers will, as part of student report cards, evaluate the job done by the students’ parents. We can then make public these parent rankings, which will of course be every bit as “scientific” and “objective” as teacher rankings. After all, we all know all parents/taxpayers would score 100%, given that any problem with any student is solely attributable to teachers.

Later we can expand to allowing teachers to score school administrators and board of education members. They also, of course, would all score perfectly, as they bear no responsibility for what happens in the classroom.


March 21st, 2012
5:43 pm

Though I believe publishing teacher ratings will be misinterpreted by the public, I question whether a law could be passed that prevents them from being made public. At the end of the day, this is paid for with tax dollars.

That said, I agree with comments above that ratings/evaluations should be published for a public workers. I think it will cause some to take a step back and reconsider the instruments being used for these measurements.

Ron F.

March 21st, 2012
5:48 pm

Jayne: you’d have to see the evaluation instruments we currently use and worse, what is being rolled out with the new system to understand the resistance. The evaluations are very subjective depending on the reviewer. Until they can create one that accurately, with as little personal bias as possible, rates us in a sensible way, I don’t think I want them published either. Tennessee’s is a “hot mess” as my kids would say, and the state knows it. They’re trying to work out the problems, so it’s only fair that they not publish inaccurate information. Get it right and I say publish the scores, and I’ll even accept pay connected to it. So far, Georgia’s model isn’t appearing to be any better. It will take a few years to pilot and work out the kinks. Then, and only then, should you support it. You’d hate it if a teacher you thought was really doing a great job with your child got a bad rating and potential pay cut because of an inaccurate evaluation instrument, wouldn’t you?


March 21st, 2012
6:15 pm

It would certainly be interesting to see the eavaluations done on the various road workmen I see on a daily basis standing around waiting for I don’t know what. All kidding aside, the torpedoes education in this state has taken in the past 15 years are sinking the ship. We were making headway serious up until Barnes took office. Since then the governors & legislature have pulled more than 1 billion dollars from education, but we sure do have a great fishing competition, and those pecan farmers sure appreciate all the extra diesel fuel they got to use by having the kids miss 2 days of school in Sonny’s first term. How near-sighted is that? How are we going to attract big-time manufacturers with as poor a workforce as we are setting up? Why would a manufacturer set up shop here when their employees’ kids would have to attend the local under-funded schools? Oh wait! Charter schools to the rescue!
Stupid, stupid neo-cons.


March 21st, 2012
6:16 pm

Sorry for the typos above “evaluation” & “serious headway”

sneak peek into education

March 21st, 2012
6:19 pm

@jJayne, it’s not that teachers don’t want accountability but let’s make clear that education is not, and never should be, run as a business model where performance is based on how well someone performs on a bubble in test on one given day out of the year. Do we assess how well doctor’s perform based on whether their patients take their medicine, follow diet plans, or exercise?. Do we judge the ability of a dentist on whether the patient brushes and flosses twice a day? I am reminded of an interview I read about a well respected business leader who was trying to promote the business model in schools at a conference. See the reference here:


My fear is that the current push for such performance based pay and accountability measures are being rushed in without first showing that they are effective and valid in a public school setting, Show me the research-based results that indicates this is the way to go and I will be happy to accept it. By the way, public schools do NOT run a monopoly in education; there are plenty of choices in the variety of private schools out there. Also, you could home school your child if you feel that their education is being so compromised in the public schools. In the public school system I work in, we already offer a variety of learning environments to our students. For example we offer choices like Theme Schools, Magnate Schools, Montessori Programs, STEM Schools, and, of course, Traditional Schools.
What disheartens me the most is that those who comment on the board feel they are experts on what goes on the classroom . Unless you are a teacher, you could never understand the complexities of the job. As a parent, I was heavily involved in both my children’s education, whether it was in their school or at home. Once they were both old enough, I decided to pursue my teaching degree and I can tell you from experience on both sides of the fence, there is a vast difference from being an involved parent and a teacher. I am not downplaying the role of the parent; parental support is a vital component in the success of the child, but while the involved parent (PTA, Room Mom, Volunteer etc…) gives you some insight, the reality is you can’t appreciate the joys and demands of the job unless you are living it.

Ron C.

March 21st, 2012
6:19 pm

This is yet another example of our national obsession (and mean-spirited) notions of “excellence,” which ends up creating hysteria, anxiety, ultimately driving away good teachers. No one should have to have their performance review made available to public scrutiny.

Crankee Yankee's Daughter

March 21st, 2012
7:47 pm

My school is also piloting the new system. According to my principal, I received one of the better evaluations in my school. In truth, it is more a reflection of the reputation I have built. My principal was afraid to mark me down in any area because he knows that I spend hours each week documenting everything I do. If you ask him to support half of the ranking he gave, I’m willing to bet he’d be hard pressed to do so.

Administrators are spread thin, especially those in small schools. As money has been cut, systems have been faced with hard reductions, and many have chosen to eliminate some assistant principal positions. This limits the number of teaching positions that need to be cut, but it also puts more responsibility on the administrators that are left. They don’t have time to give thorough evaluations let alone receive training on how to do so.

We need a lot more fine tuning and training before we can even begin considering making evaluations public.

HS Math Teacher

March 21st, 2012
7:56 pm

Those evil, lazy, no-good-for-nothing teachers!!!! It’s all their fault that education in America is “failing”. Let’s take away some of their pay & benefits, and make them jump through more hoops, and pour more kids into their classrooms, and give them kids who’ve been socially promoted through the lower grades. Oh….wait a minute….we’ve already done this.


March 21st, 2012
8:03 pm

It’s impossible to support teachers on their desires for issues when stuff like this is the thanks we get.


March 21st, 2012
8:24 pm

Birth Control pills are now covered thanks to the unquestioned coverage provided for Viagra. If the boys in the ‘hood (read: State Capitol) aren’t careful, this will end with open-records requests for evaluations of those in male-dominated, tax-supported professions such as law enforcement, fire safety, and other government positions including the honest and not-so-honest holders of upper management positions in state and local governments. Wait a minute, teachers. Maybe we should go along with this for the sake of the common good that may come of it, should the above actually take place. :-)


March 21st, 2012
9:09 pm

JOE THE TEACHER got it right in his first blog. Said it all…


March 21st, 2012
9:20 pm

I worked nearly 20 years in corporations and found those ratings to be subjective and often less related to day to day activities or job accomplishments than politics with the boss. Why would anyone think that similiar instruments used to rate teachers would be any better? Shameful that people who experience such inperfect systems somehow “feel” that teacher rating system would be reliable with any useable metrics (to the public) when corporate and business personal evaluations are often not reliable or comprehensive either.

It is scandelous to publish ANYONE’S evaluation and is a clear violation of individual privacy. Worst yet, it can lead to jeapordizing a person’s career and ability to provide for their family even if the rating is not 100%. This is a clear violation of individual right to privacy and will end up with lawsuits. Regardless of my rating I will find a lawyer and sue the institutions that publish private information on me. Because I am a state employee is no reason to single out teachers for this demoralizing and insensitive act. In my opinion, to do this legally and without lawsuit the open records of EVERY state employee would have to also be published. While we are at it let’s publish the days sick (and the reason – because we have to state it), or the medical records because the health coverage is partially funded by the state. Now we have to disclose BMI, cholestrol and blood pressure readings for the state to keep on file. Is that fair game too? Oh, don’t forget to publish the EXACT times we enter and leave the school building because that is also an official record. Where is this witch hunt going to end?

In 10 years of teaching I have never seen such a hostile environment to teachers as currently exists. Parent and lawmakers, I spend less than an hour a day with your child. And then that time is often divided among 30 students in the room. So if I am not instructing, your child may receive 2 minutes of individual attention with me on a given day. How much time do you spend with your child each day? Yes, teachers can make the difference with a child (which is why we stick with it); however the job the parent does with their child is far more influencial. Stop blaming teachers when you tell your child that after school activities are more important than homework or school projects. (I teach math and can only give 15 minutes a day, plus I give classtime for homework, but yet get complaints that is too much.) Don’t blame me when your child gets less than an A for not practicing critical math skills or coming to me for help. EFFECTIVE EDUCATION IS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE FAMILY, EDUCATORS, AND STUDENT. I am not asking any parent to come in my classroom to babysit or bring cookies or anything else. PLEASE just serve as a role model to your child and influence your child to complete what is assigned, ask questions when do not understand, and realize that every individual is responsible for his/her own future.

Sorry for venting, but this is just wrong. No, I am not hiding anything. There is no “teacher conspiracy”. Also there are no unions or any trade organizations I am supporting. I am not a liberal, believe in spending less than what comes in, and yes I have voted Republician from time to time. Also, I don’t think our education system is perfect and I applaud efforts to improve the education field. Let’s do this thing honestly and without gimmicks. Publishing my rating on annual evaluation would a personal violation.


March 21st, 2012
9:20 pm

One year I taught 3 classes with EOCTs. They weren’t honors classes or anything, just regular classes, all the same subject, and there were 3 teachers teaching that subject. One of my classes had the highest pass rate of any in our school. Another had the lowest.

As far as I could tell, I taught them both the same way, but they were 2 different groups of kids, different skills, different mix of personalities, different time of day.

So, for that year anyway, was I the BEST teacher in the school for that subject, or the worst? I never can decide.

history teacher

March 21st, 2012
9:36 pm

I had the same experience as science teacher last year with my two regular US history EOCTs. The classes were 3rd and 4th hour. Both classes had @28 kids. I did the same activities and taught them both the same way. One class had a 90% pass rate and the other class had a 68% class rate. The 68% was still good considering what the state score was. However, there should not have been that much difference between the two classes. Was it me or them??????

bootney farnsworth

March 21st, 2012
10:33 pm

@ Jayne,

the main thing we’ve asked for is a seat at the table to help form and shape accountability measures.

we don’t build wiggets which you can keep track of by simple counting


March 21st, 2012
11:21 pm

Several years ago I taught two sections of US History during the spring semester. Both sections had very high pass rates on GHSGT – a test which is over half US History. I had to compact the entire US History curriculum into 2 1/2 months to have the students ready before the test in mid March. About 6 weeks later, these same students had to take the EOCT. In one of the classes, I had 4 pass. Interestingly enough, when I got that data, I checked my attendance data and saw I had over 500 absences for that one class alone.

I still question how I will be judged based on “value added.” Since I now teach Economics exclusively, am I going to be judged on US History scores? Graduation test scores (for next year anyway)? Will the state actually develop a pre-test/post-test model? Will we start using student portfolios to show growth? Who will actually take the time to evaluate them? This is where I have problems. Yes, I agree the current system needs to change, but with too many unknowns, with too many inputs that I cannot control, I am skeptical that this will actually work.


March 21st, 2012
11:23 pm

I think we should publish in a concise form how are legislators voted on issues. Of all the important issues the GOP are now UTERUS cops. Taking away a women right to chose.


March 22nd, 2012
3:58 am

The beatings will continue until morale improves.


March 22nd, 2012
6:35 am

d, excellent point on absences. Studies find that students with excessive absences are more likely to fail in school. 70% of mine have missed 5 or more days – official policy used to be that they would automatically be denied credit.

Every Government Employee

March 22nd, 2012
7:50 am

Yes, of course, we citizens should see EVERY government employee’s records. We have a right to know. Just as a politician’s tax records are open for public scrutiny, so should a teacher’s and school board member’s evaluation and records be open to public scrutiny along with firemen, policemen, city councilmenn, judges, sanitation workers but especially, especially, anyone who has access to our children, who are the most vulnerable. If parents knew about the record of the so-called teacher-monster in CA that fed his sperm to his students he likely would have harmed fewer kids. That monster’s record was covered up at another school district. If we’d known about “coach” Sandusky much earlier, he would have harmed fewer kids.
If you choose to earn a living as a public servant you have to accept the responsibilities and consequences that go along with the good benefits and job security and perks that go along witht it.
Good Mother

Michael Moore

March 22nd, 2012
7:52 am

A value-added test score is a highly complex, yet illusory mathematical prediction of student performance on a future high-stakes test.

Basically, a computer predicts how a student will do next year based on the previous year’s test score, and controlling for factors like race, income, gender, and years in the system.

Not factored into the analysis are demographic and other factors—consistently demonstrated by massive amounts of research to have a profound impact on academic performance—such as poverty, non-native English speakers, special education, or how students are grouped in classrooms.

It is no surprise the margin of error for value-added test scores recently released in New York is a mind-boggling 35% in math, and as much as 53% in English.

Georgia is planning to use this key number to determine whether your child is retained or progresses. The score also determines whether your teacher receives a raise or loses his job. The scores determine whether a school stays open or closes, and if the faculty stays or is re-assigned. These scores will influence economic development in Georgia because they will determine whether a business decides to open for business in a particular area. (If you think this is bad, wait until your school has a letter grade and see how that affects economic development.)

Ron F.

March 22nd, 2012
10:02 am

“but especially, especially, anyone who has access to our children, who are the most vulnerable.”

GM: Not trying to start anything here, but does that include the, dare I say it, parents??! You have them years before we get a chance to ruin them, and we only have 7 hours a day to do it. They’re yours the other 17, so I’d say their vulnerability is most threatened outside of school. In my career, I’ve seen MANY more cases of parental abuse than I have teacher abuse. I’m raising two boys now because of it. I would have benefitted more from published information on their parents.

Ron F.

March 22nd, 2012
10:03 am

“It is no surprise the margin of error for value-added test scores recently released in New York is a mind-boggling 35% in math, and as much as 53% in English”

Sounds like my odds are better at winning the lottery than getting an accurate evaluation score. Interesting…

Charlie The Tuna

March 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

More evidence that people are just plain nosy!

Parent Teacher

March 22nd, 2012
3:59 pm

@ GM

While your at it why don’t we make evaluations available for all private industry that receives a subsidy or tax break, after all it is taxpayers money. Show us the evaluations for all employees who receive any public assistance or welfare. While your at it I want to see the health records for all medicare and medicaid recipeints, again it is partly my money paying.

Your statements are unreasonable at best. Your assertions have no validity. I especially like that you call government employees “servants.” I am no ones servant. Not a students, a parents or a legislators. You will most likely reply that I should stop teaching because I don’t put the student first and you expect everyone to sacrifice their entire life for the greater good because I chose an honorable career where I can help children and make a difference. That does not mean that I give up my dignity or my personal and private life.

Blog Bites | COE Policy Blog

March 23rd, 2012
11:09 am

[...] that legislators in Tennessee are trying to prevent it in that state, Maureen Downey at Get Schooled raises the question of whether teachers’ scores based in part on value-added measures (VAMs) [...]


March 23rd, 2012
1:55 pm

Publish my evaluations, as long as you include the names of my students (and their parents) who are failing as well. After all, it is “public interest” that drives this, right? So parents can then complain if their child is in a class with students who are constant disruptors, and pull their kid out. Or, preemptantly, can refuse to allow their child to be in the classroom with the kid ever!

When you rate teachers based on something someone else (students) does or doesn’t do, how fair is that? Do you want to be rated based on the work of the secretary, or the cleaning lady, or the receptionist?