The secretary of state’s office has ordered the Boston public schools to release teacher performance ratings by school after ruling they were wrongfully withheld.
The Boston Globe originally sought the teacher ratings in June and also requested aggregate ratings of all principals and other administrators. The request did not seek data on individual teachers, but sought only the number and percentage of teachers at each school who rank in each performance category.
The school department argued that the documents were exempt from the state’s public records law because their release would risk identifying individual teachers.
But Shawn Williams, the state’s supervisor of records, said “the withheld records do not disclose the identity of any individual employees that would be protected” from disclosure under the state’s public records.
The teacher’s union also objected to the release of the evaluations.
“One, there is a danger of the identification of individuals, certainly in a small school; two, I don’t believe the data is indicative of a school’s performance or a teacher’s performance and I’m afraid people might make hasty decisions on that data; and three, the system has been shown to be biased by age, race, and gender,” union president Richard Stutman said.
The data are the first to be generated under a new evaluation system that could offer families information on the quality of instruction at each of the city’s schools. The system judges a teacher’s performance as exemplary, proficient, in need of improvement, or unsatisfactory.
Linda Noonan, executive director for the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which has been pushing for more stringent educator evaluations, wants the information available.
“It is very helpful information,” Noonan said, “but what people need to understand is that it is a work in progress.”