NYC’s Top Education Officials Not Subject to Formal Review

Although New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg fought a pitched battle with education leaders and unions to implement a tough teacher and principal evaluation program, according to Lisa Fleisher of The Wall Street Journal, the accountability zeal didn’t reach the top administrative layer of the city’s Department of Education. When queried about the lack of a formal review process in the Department, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said that a formal review process wasn’t necessary because he personally assesses his staff on a daily basis.

Walcott contrasted that with teachers, now subject to a stringent assessment regimen, who were operating out of sight of officials, but in direct contact with students. Because teachers were students’ first point of contact for academics, getting a better sense of how they were performing was vital to improving academic outcomes in city schools.

The Wall Street Journal filed a public records request in February 2012 seeking the senior-staff evaluations after the department successfully fought to release scores for individual teachers’ performances based on students’ test scores.
In a response dated June 11, the department’s public-records officer said no evaluations had been created since at least 2001 for the following positions: chancellor, chief of staff, chief academic officer, senior deputy chancellor, chief schools officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, deputy chancellor and general counsel. Mr. Bloomberg has appointed three permanent chancellors.

In a similar vein, the spokeswoman for the mayor insisted that Bloomberg already held his staff accountable for their job performance, which wasn’t the case for the Board of Education up until the assessment system was deployed. She also pointed out that since coming into office, Bloomberg presided over substantial improvements in NYC academic results, including a graduation rate that rose 40% and a steep decline in student drop-out rates.

Superintendents across the U.S. are usually evaluated under a formal process, generally by elected boards of education, said Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association. The reviews are intended to help superintendents improve, he said. An increasing number of superintendents are also judged by their staff and community members, he said. “The jargon for it is a 360 evaluation,” he said. “Almost nobody goes without evaluation now.”

Superintendents in several other districts controlled by the mayor, such as Boston and Washington, D.C., also receive formal evaluations every year.

Prior to 2002, the city had a formal evaluation process in place for its chancellors, covering areas such as student performance and school maintenance and construction.