As teachers, we know we are better able to help our students when we have real support from our administrators. Teachers and students are impacted when principals do not provide substantive, effective support. In fact, a 2010 survey of 5,000 New York City teachers who left the profession found more than 40 percent of teachers listed dissatisfaction with administration as the most important factor in leaving the school.
In a city like ours with a massive teacher retention problem, where half of all teachers leave within five years, principal accountability should be a major priority. However, despite several years of discussions about teacher evaluations, New York City has barely broached the topic of evaluating principals. Just as teachers need meaningful support to grow as professionals, principals also need feedback to become more effective in their roles. We are not interested in a punitive system for principals; we want principals to be evaluated and supported so they can help us help our students.
Update and improve school climate surveys to paint a more accurate picture of a principal’s effectiveness.
Include effective teacher retention data, as principals should be given credit for their role in ensuring that effective teachers stay teaching.
Use student attendance, school safety information, and student growth data as measures of effectiveness to reflect principals’ roles as instructional leaders and influencers of school culture.
Implement a system of multiple observations by trained supervisors to provide principals with meaningful feedback.
Allow principals and evaluators to jointly select evaluation rubrics to ensure fairness and flexibility for different school types and different levels of principal experience.
- Mandate that principal goals focus on areas of weakness.
About the Teacher Action Team
Our team of 18 teachers held meetings after school over five months. We examined New York’s current principal evaluation system, researched the role of a principal, pored over rubrics and debated what an ideal principal does. In December 2011, we sent an open online survey to New York City teachers about our initial ideas that received more than 200 responses. We analyzed the results, discussed alternative suggestions that teachers submitted and modified our vision and recommendations accordingly.