Change of plans: State will not demand evaluations of individual CT teachers

The letterhead on the letter from the Attorney General saying that the office is dropping their request for individual teacher evaluations

The letterhead on the letter from the Attorney General saying that the office is dropping its request for individual teacher evaluations

One of the state’s top attorneys has told a coalition of teachers, parents and school officials suing the state over school-funding levels that the Office of the Attorney General has reversed course and is no longer asking a judge to “compel” the release of thousands of individual teacher evaluations.

“In order to fully and finally put to rest any concerns that the State seeks or will seek data identifying the evaluations of individual teachers in this matter, we have chosen to withdraw our request to compel production of any individual teacher evaluations, even in redacted form,” Associate Attorney General Joseph Rubin wrote in a letter to the plaintiffs late Thursday. “The State will rebut any claims by CCJEF of poor quality teaching by other evidence. We have been, and will remain, sensitive to the privacy concerns of teachers as we move forward.”

This reversal came hours after The Connecticut Mirror first reported on the state’s request that a Hartford Superior Court judge order seven of the state’s lowest-performing school districts to turn over individual assessments. School officials and teachers’ unions balked at the request.

“To allow these evaluations to be disclosed, even in redacted form, and without consent of teachers, breaches the confidentiality our teachers anticipated,” union President Sheila Cohen, wrote in a signed affidavit to the court March 3.

The state’s top lawyers had subpoenaed Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Britain, New London, Norwich, Plainfield, Waterford and Windham for the evaluations so they can prepare for a trial set for this fall to determine whether the state is spending enough money for students to receive an adequate education.

The attorney general’s office argued as recently as Wednesday that it needs these redacted documents to defend against claims that these districts fail to provide “highly qualified teachers.”

“Some have expressed concerns that we sought data that could identify the evaluations of individual teachers. That was not and is not correct,” Rubin wrote in his letter to the plaintiffs.

The attorney general’s office is now instead seeking aggregate summaries of teacher evaluations that will not include any information identifying an individual teacher’s performance. The lawyers suing the state have agreed to provide that information.

Hunter Smith, one of the New Haven-based attorneys representing the plaintiffs said he was happy with the Attorney General’s decision.

“They took a reasonable approach,” he said.

Cohen, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, is also pleased with the outcome.

“We are absolutely happy. It couldn’t be a better outcome for teachers,” she said during an interview Friday.