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Teacher Evaluations Warrant Privacy

Teacher evaluations done at Berkeley High School (BHS) are used primarily for the purpose of professional development and policy making, but can also be used to decide whether or not to keep a teacher on staff. Currently at BHS, teacher evaluations are kept private from students and parents, a system that should be maintained to preserve the systems in place.

Currently, professional development within the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) is taken very seriously. The BUSD website boasts that its programs foster “high quality teaching strategies” and “subject matter expertise.” In addition, nine percent of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) budget is spent annually on teacher evaluation, which amounts to almost a million dollars spent each year. That’s no number to be scoffed at, especially in the business of education, where money is always short and budget cuts are beginning to feel routine.

It is safe to assume that the people hired using this money have put thought and care into the system of professional development, given the amount of resources at their disposal. If the scores of the teachers were released, students and parents would likely equate the teachers’ quality and ability to teach with that number, which is a dangerous assumption. The score and actual skill are not directly correlated for two reasons. Primarily, each teacher works differently for different students. Furthermore, the teacher evaluations — made with the intention of helping teachers — will not provide an objective view into the teachers’ ability.

If the scores were not equated with the performance of the teachers and instead used as a means of determining areas for improvement, releasing the scores could be useful. However, there are other ways to let the students and parents know where their teachers are going to receive professional development, such as letting them know directly.

The teacher evaluation scoring should be kept private since it is mainly a tool for professional development and not an accurate representation of a teacher’s teaching style and effectiveness. With the scores kept private, students will be able to go in to class and judge the teacher based on how that teacher teaches for them and not on an arbitrary number. Plus, even if that teacher has had difficulty teaching in the past, it’s important to give every teacher a chance.