Home > 2014 SD Legislative Session, Education > South Dakota 2014 Legislature: Making teacher evaluations private via HB 1030

South Dakota 2014 Legislature: Making teacher evaluations private via HB 1030

January 24, 2014

liftarn_English_lawyer_early_20th_century.The House Education committee just debated and passed House Bill 1030. The stated purpose of this bill is to “provide for the confidentiality of certain evaluation data.” Here is the entire text of this bill:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for the confidentiality of certain evaluation data.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 13-42 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
    Any record or document, regardless of physical form, created by a public school, public school district, or any other school in connection with the evaluation of an individual teacher, principal, or other school employee constitutes personnel information and is not open to inspection or copying pursuant to subdivision 1-27-1.5(7).

This is an interesting bill. As an advocate of privacy rights, I could argue this bill would appear to be good on the surface. The personal data of the teachers in South Dakota should not be allowed into the public domain. Yet at the same time I would question whether everything in a teacher evaluation file should be considered ‘private’.

HR Departments for private companies are required to safeguard personnel files and ensure the data is not shared. Public entities, such as school districts, are also required to protect the private data of employees. And rightfully so. Any organization that has records for people’s data should take every step to secure that data.

Yet at the same time teachers are paid using taxpayer dollars to teach our children. Should parents and other taxpayers in a community have the right to know if the teachers hired by a school district are performing well? I still would likely side with the teachers in keeping the actual records private by default. But there needs to be a mechanism that allows the evaluations to become public if requested. In such circumstances private data (such as SSN, birth-date, etc..) can be redacted and appropriate evaluations made available to the public for scrutiny.

Why would this be necessary? During the Committee hearing there were a couple of scenarios where it would be appropriate for schools to share this data. One is a circumstance where a teacher takes a job with a new school district. In this case the Superintendent of the school where the teacher previously worked is not allowed to share the evaluation data with the Superintendent of the new school. Both of these Superintendents work for public schools that use taxpayer dollars. Supposedly both of these school districts answer directly to the taxpayers. If a teacher has a history of bad evaluations, wouldn’t it be appropriate for the new school to know that? Or must those evaluations continue to be protected, because the teacher may have been unfairly targeted by the Superintendent in the previous school district? If these were private schools I would say the evaluations should always be confidential (unless the teacher allows it to be passed on). But should public schools be held to different standards because they do use taxpayer dollars and the teachers technically work for ‘we the people’?

A bigger concern for me is ethical violations within the evaluations records. During testimony I discovered that ethical violations are not open to public scrutiny. When there is an ethical problem there is a Professional Practices Commission that looks into the matter. Any final decision from that Commission is made public. But none of the proceedings leading up to that decision can be made public (unless the teach allows it). If I understand this correctly, when the Commission decided not to look at an ethical concern it will never become public. If a teacher is found to violate an ethical practice and loses their license, should the taxpayers be allowed to examine the circumstances?

This bill appears to be good on the surface since it strengthens privacy law for personal data. The only question I have is whether all of a public teachers evaluation data should be considered ‘private’. HB1030 actually appears to be a move to create even more separation between teachers and parents. I just don’t see that as the best way to handle public education.

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    January 24, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Teacher evaluations are just a stupid formality if they are the way they were when I gave them. Actually, the BIA had had a good one. It was based on improvements agreed on by the principal and the teachers. None of that stupid crap where the principal comes in and observers with a stupid chart when the teacher is supposed to be “performing,”

    The other issue I have with this is that Senator JIm Bradford is on the committee. He had to be one of the worst teachers I ever had the agony to have on staff. He never had his lesson plans ready or anything else. He graded on behavior alone. The deal was that if the kids were quiet he would give them high grades. Then he sold pickles to the kids and they would suck on them all period and the vinegar would rot their teeth. When I tried to fire him I found out he had more pull on the school board than I did. He was a local boy.

    The other problem is that the principals want to be well liked by the staff so he/she always liked to give good marks.

    • January 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      I’ve actually had more than one teacher from different school districts tell me they feel principals always give good marks, especially to teachers that are well liked by parents (which does’t necessarily make them good teachers).

  2. Merlyn Schutterle
    January 26, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I had a teacher who all the parents liked and the kids liked as well. Unfortunately, she was pretty worthless. I tried to replace her, but her boss over me protected her and I lost that battle. I think she is still teaching somewhere.

    A good administrator knows how to help a weak teacher, but, unfortunately, most administrators are poor educators themselves. That’s why they became administrators.

    I have worked under some really good administrators myself, so I know the good ones from the bad ones.

    Some of the worst are, Cherie Farlee(BIA), Manuel Moran,(Shannon County Denis Fox(BIA), Asad Kahn, (BIA), Dr. Bordeaux(BIA)…

    Some good ones: Shirley Tate(Todd County) Jim Heinert(Todd County) and one who I can’t remember his name right now who ran Spring Creek School in Todd County who, unfortunately was killed in a truck wreck.

    As for poor teachers, one of the worst I ever knew is Jim Bradford who is now in the senate and on the education committee as I remember.

  1. February 24, 2014 at 10:11 pm
  2. March 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm
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