Principals Sign Petition Opposing NY’s Teacher Evaluation

New York State’s new teacher evaluation system has attracted some vocal opponents, including one of the few principals who actually has experience with the new evaluations, writes Philissa Cramer at Gotham Schools.

Geraldine Maione is the principal of 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. And she is vocal in her opposition of the new evaluations, saying 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. She doesn’t believe tougher evaluations are necessary if principals put adequate pressure on struggling teachers to improve or move on.

“No teacher has a forever job if the principal is doing her job,” Maione said.

Maione joins around 30 city principals who have signed onto a position paper arguing that the state’s evaluation requirements that 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.

The petition has garnered support from principals of progressive schools who want to distance themselves from using test scores to make high-stakes decisions. But there has also been support from several principals from smaller high schools that opened under the Bloomberg administration, including one of the city’s few remaining large high schools.

But even with the new additions, hundreds of principals statewide had signed on but only two active city principals were on the list.

Cramer asks 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, speculates 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.

He also thinks city principals are “a little more nervous” about jeopardizing their jobs by speaking out.