March 7, 2012

Educators 4 Excellence Members Propose New Principal Evaluation System to Improve Teacher Quality

Plan Would Give Principals Credit for Retaining Great Teachers and Creating a More Conducive Learning Environment, Among Other Measures

New York, March 7, 2012  - A month after Governor Cuomo and union leaders agreed to a new statewide teacher evaluation system, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) members today unveiled their recommendations to strengthen the evaluation of public school principals, a system required under the state’s winning Race to the Top application. The policy paper, “Principals Matter – Principal Evaluations from a Teacher Perspective,” lays out six changes to the current principal evaluation system that would better link the ratings of school leaders to the quality of support they provide teachers. Among their recommendations is rewriting the annual school climate survey to more accurately reflect the opinions of teachers towards their principals’ effectiveness. The policy team also suggests giving principals credit on their evaluations for keeping effective teachers on staff. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons teachers report leaving their schools is dissatisfaction with administrators.

“As school leaders, principals play a key role in evaluating and supporting teachers and we need to make sure that they get fair and useful feed-back that will ultimately benefit both teachers and students ” said Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of E4E. “ The topic of principal evaluations has largely been ignored in the current debate over evaluations, but teachers want to see principals lead by example and that is why we need an evaluation system that not only will help principals improve, but also increase accountability and ensure that teachers are fully supported.

A new principal evaluation system is required by a 2010 state law, the same law that mandated the new teacher evaluation system slated to go into effect in 2013. The law requires principals be rated based on a variety of factors including student growth data and observations, but leaves much of the details to be negotiated locally by districts and unions. In New York City, the Bloomberg Administration and Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) are currently at an impasse in their negotiations. For the past four months, a policy team of 18 current teachers who are E4E members studied the issue and solicited feedback from hundreds of educators and school leaders to come up with a set of recommendations and possibly jumpstart negotiations. E4E’s recommendations include:   

  • Updating and improving school climate surveys so they accurately reflect the opinions of teachers towards their principals. Surveys should be conducted twice instead of a once a year to assess the progress principals are making with their staffs.
  • Giving principals credit for their ability to retain effective educators.
  • Incorporating data about instructional leadership and school culture into the principal’s evaluation. This could include student attendance, school safety information and student growth data.
  • Conducting formal observations of principals at least twice a year.
  • Using a formal rubric to evaluate principals, as will be done with teachers, so that principals understand the goals and expectations they are trying to meet.
  •  qMandating that principals set their goals collaboratively with a supervisor, and not alone as they do now, so that goals are challenging and address areas of weakness.

    “We think these are commonsense measures that will help principals get even better at their jobs. When it comes to evaluation, teachers want and need feedback about their performance, but we can’t be expected to improve student learning alone,” said Tara Brancato, a high school music teacher in the Bronx who served on the E4E policy team. “Without strong principals who understand where they, too, can improve then efforts to improve teacher quality and student achievement won’t live up to their potential.”

    “Smart principals already work as a team with their teachers to create a culture of excellence and high expectations,” said Linda Rosenbury, Principal of J.H.S 22 in the Bronx. “I support having that relationship formalized in my annual review because I know that the lynchpin of my school’s success is the strength of the teachers I assemble.”

    The principal evaluation policy paper is the third policy report E4E members have published in the last year. The organization has also made recommendations to revise the Last in First out layoff policy, which resulted in the passing of a Senate bill in 2011. And last month, the recommendations of E4E members were incorporated into the agreement on a statewide teacher evaluation system.