Hundreds of Long Island public school principals are challenging the state Education Department and criticizing new standards for evaluating educators, including the Bridgehampton, Southampton and Sag Harbor high school principals.
The new rules went into effect in September as New York State worked to win federal money under the Race to the Top program, which the White House said is designed to promote "innovation, reform, and excellence in America’s public schools."
Teachers and principals are evaluated, in part, on student performance on standardized tests.
“As building principals, we applaud efforts aimed towards excellence for all of our students. We cannot, however, stand by while untested practices are put in place without any meaningful discussion or proven research,” they say on a new website.
principal Timothy Mundell said he joined in signing the Long Island Principals' position paper because it "pointed out some things I think all of us in the educational setting need to consider in terms of the speed at which some of the changes are being made.”
In their paper, the principals write, “At first glance, using test scores might seem like a reasonable approach to accountability. As designed, however, these regulations carry unintended negative consequences for our schools and students that simply cannot be ignored.”
Teachers and principals receive a rating of 0-100 with 20 to 40 percent of their score coming from their students’ test performance.
The website lists several objections to the system, arguing that tax dollars are being diverted from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors; that the emphasis on evaluations will damage children as schools put too much focus on test results, and that educational experts say there is no evidence that such a system improves students’ education.
"We should have well thought out systems and processes in terms of how we evaluate and how we run our programs," Mundell said. "We're running at breakneck speed."
Giving an example of what the principals are objecting to, Mundell said that educator assessments for grades three through eight were created to evaluate student learning, "not necessarily how a teacher performs.”
“We’re taking a tool and using it to measure and evaluate a teacher's performance, and the tool doesn’t necessarily align with the purpose for which it's being used,” he said.
Mudell said that the state should be making its decisions based on what is best for students, rather than what is best for collecting federal dollars, i.e. Race to the Top grants.
“We, principals of Long Island schools, conclude that the proposed [Annual Professional Performance Review] process is an unproven system that is wasteful of increasingly limited resources,"the principals' website says. "More importantly, it will prove to be deeply demoralizing to educators and harmful to the children in our care.”
The letter was written by Dr. Sean Feeney, principal of The Wheatley School in East Williston and president of the Nassau County High School Principals Association, and Carol Corbett Burris of South Side High School in Rockville Centre. In July, Burris sent a memo to U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in July, outlining her objections to poor evaluation systems.
The state Board of Regents approved the evaluation system in May. “These evaluations will play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including promotion, retention, tenure determinations, termination, and supplemental compensation, and will be a significant factor in teacher and principal professional development,” the state Education Department said at the time.
Educators are rated on this basis, the department said:
- 20 percent - student growth on state assessments or a comparable measure of student achievement growth (increases to 25% upon implementation of a value-added growth model);
- 20 percent - locally-selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (decreases to 15 percent upon implementation of a value-added growth model); and
- 60 percent - other measures of teacher/principal effectiveness.