Open government advocates say the public should be able to review teachers’ work evaluations, especially since state government spent the last two years investing time and money to reconfigure how teachers are graded.
“I don’t want government to close off any more records for reasons I don’t think are very clear, and that seems to be too often the case,” said Kent Flanagan, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. “Some of the primary stakeholders don’t seem to have a voice here.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Wednesday he supports a move, SB1447, to keep the evaluations of public school teachers from taxpayers’ view, and that making those documents subject to open records would punish teachers and scare people away from the profession.
“Nobody else has all their evaluations put in play. We’re trying to encourage people to be teachers. So if I’m a 20-year-old thinking about teaching, and I’m saying, ‘Huh, every quarter, every half-year, whatever, my evaluation’s going to be out there in the paper?’”
He said evaluators, who are still getting acclimated to the new grading system, may not be totally honest if they know the results will be published.
Other government transparency watchdogs disagree, saying the documents should be open, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Media outlets and parents, for the most part, want the data released.
“We think government should be as transparent as possible,” said Greg Sherrill, executive director of the Tennessee Press Association.
“Unless there is a specific reason why the information should be closed, we think citizens have the right to know what taxpayer-funded organizations are doing.”
Chris Peck, editor of The Commercial Appeal, wants the results public.
“The whole point of the evaluation system is to let parents and interested parties get a sense of which teachers are succeeding and which are not,” Peck said. “To make that judgment, parents and the public need to see the evaluation scores. It’s really that simple.”
The proposal is heading to the Senate floor. The House version faces a hearing Tuesday in the State and Local Government committee.