The principals are protesting a new evaluation system that the state Department of Education under Commissioner John B. King Jr. has put in place to meet the demands of New York’s federal Race to the Top grant.
As one principal in the story noted, the new evaluation system has accomplished one thing so far; it has united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the state education department.
Also a Race to the Top winner, Georgia will begin to pilot its new teacher/school leadership evaluation tool in January. It, too, will include student performance as a measure of teacher and principal effectiveness. I suspect that we will see the same complaints here, although we have yet to see principals rise up in organized opposition.
In a recent meeting with the Georgia DOE staff charged with launching this system, it was clear to me that they wished they had more time to create, pilot and then review the new evaluation system before it goes statewide, but the Race to the Top pacing does not allow years of testing and tweaking.
It may well be the haste of putting these sweeping reforms in place that will end up undermining the success of Race to the Top. That haste is one of the chief concerns of the New York principals. (I have to note that Georgia is at least piloting its evaluation system for five months; New York had no real pilot, according to this story.)
Here is an excerpt of the Times piece, but please try to read the full piece and the letter itself:
As of last night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.
Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight.
Mr. Kaplan, who runs one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, has been evaluating teachers since the education commissioner was a teenager. No matter. He is required by Nassau County officials to attend 10 training sessions, as is Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School here, who was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State.
“It’s education by humiliation,” Mr. Kaplan said. “I’ve never seen teachers and principals so degraded.”
The trainers at these sessions, which are paid for by state and federal grants, have explained that they’re figuring out the new evaluation system as they go. To make the point, they’ve been showing a YouTube video with a fictional crew of mechanics who are having the time of their lives building an airplane in midair. “It was supposed to be funny, but the room went silent,” Ms. Burris said. “These are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about.”
Last year New York was awarded $700 million as one of 11 states, along with the District of Columbia, to win a Race to the Top grant. The application process was chaotic, with Dr. King’s office making the deadline by just a few hours. To win a grant, states had to pledge to follow policy priorities of the Obama administration, like evaluating teachers by student test scores, even though there were no implementation plans yet.
New York committed to an evaluation process that is based 60 percent on principal observations and other subjective measures, and from 20 to 40 percent on state tests, depending on the local district. In written responses to questions, Dr. King said while there are bugs in the system, “we are confident that as the state law on teacher evaluations phases in over the next couple of years, those educators charged with ensuring its successful implementation will do so professionally.”
Asked if he was surprised by the number of principals who had signed, he wrote, “It’s not at all surprising” that the introduction of a new evaluation system “would produce anxiety.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog