December 5, 2011
The newest signatories to a petition against the state’s new teacher evaluation system include one of the few principals who actually has experience with the new evaluations.
Geraldine Maione heads Brooklyn’s William E. Grady High School, which is among 33 “persistently low-achieving” city schools that are using the new evaluations in exchange for additional federal funds.
She told me that she opposes the new evaluations because they are so formulaic that they leave little room for principals to exercise discretion.
“When I walk in a classroom, I know when children are learning and teachers are teaching,” she said, adding that tougher evaluations aren’t necessary if principals push struggling teachers either to improve or move on.
“No teacher has a forever job if the principal is doing her job,” Maione said.
Maione is among about 30 city principals who have signed onto a position paper arguing that the state’s evaluation requirements — which require a portion of teachers’ ratings to be based on their students’ test scores — are unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. That’s a sharp rise from last month, when hundreds of principals statewide had signed on but only two active city principals were on the list.
The new signatories include some principals of progressive schools where using test scores to make high-stakes decisions is anathema. For example, Herb Mack and Ann Cook, the founding principals of Urban Academy, where students don’t even take most Regents exams, are on the list, as are Julie Zuckerman and Naomi Smith, principals of the Central Park East schools founded by Deborah Meier.
But most of the new signatories are hardly seasoned activists. Several lead small high schools that opened under the Bloomberg administration, and another, Musa Shama, heads one of the city’s few remaining large high schools. Others have kept their heads down as principals of neighborhood elementary schools.
Even with the new additions, city school leaders make up just 5 percent of the principals who have signed the petition, even though they comprise about a third of principals statewide.
Why have relatively few city principals put their name to the petition, even as their union has signaled support? Sean Feeney, a Nassau County principal who co-authored the position paper, offered a couple of theories when we spoke last month:
Feeney speculated that city principals are less shocked by the state’s evaluation requirements because the city has already tried to develop “value-added” evaluations of some teachers using student test scores.
“The city’s been living with this for a while,” he said.
Plus, he said about city principals, “I think they’re a little more nervous” about jeopardizing their jobs by speaking out.
The full list of city principals who have signed the petition is below: