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New law restricts access to Illinois teacher evaluations

By Whitney Jones, Illinois Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – A new law strengthening teacher evaluations in Illinois will also keep those evaluations from public scrutiny.

Teachers unions pushed for the change to the state's Freedom of Information Act that will keep private job performance reports of teachers, principals and local school superintendents.

Illinois State Schools Superintendent Christopher Koch said making evaluations available to the public can be problematic.

"You could run into situations where you would have parents requesting all the evaluations for all the fifth grade teachers to try and pick the teacher they want," Koch said. "To some extent it's important that there's a space between management and employees to improve performance without that kind of public scrutiny."

It's the first change to a recently updated state Freedom of Information law.

Beth Bennett of the Illinois Press Association said access to the evaluations is the public's right.

"Someone might try and have access to performance evaluations in order to make a case for why they thought a teacher might have been negligent or substandard or something like that," Bennett said.

State government's largest public employee's union, AFSCME, said it also wants to keep evaluations of its members private and plans to seek legislation to that effect this spring.