Why I Signed: Principals' Objections to the New Evaluation System

Principals who object to the new state system to evaluate teachers and principals based on student testing have begun circulating a petition against it. In his On Education column in The New York Times on Monday, Michael Winerip reported that more than 650 principals from around the state — 18 from New York City schools — had signed.

Here, a few of the principals who signed give their reasons.

John C. Hughes, the Hunts Point School

Not only does this “reform” fail to address the numerous issues that plague our schools and its students, there is no evidence that it has any potential to be effective. Constant manipulation of statistics, incessant pillorying of teachers and administrators, and fomenting of conflict between various factions are not educational strategies; they are political ones. The ultimate result, intentional or not, will be a two-tiered system of public education. One will service higher-performing students whose parents have the skills and perseverance to get them into better schools. The other will serve as a warehouse for the underclass. The process has already begun.

Jane Modoono, Herricks High School, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

I signed this letter because in my nearly 40 years in education I have never seen a plan so ill-founded and dangerous as this one. What organization invests millions of dollars in a plan that will affect every child, parent and teacher in its scope without doing a significant amount of research, development, and pilot testing, before putting it in place? I have always supported the use of student achievement data as part of the evaluation of teachers, but there is absolutely no evidence that rating teachers (with a system that is inherently flawed), and pitting them against one another, will do anything but negatively impact the culture of our schools. The public needs to know how ill informed this is.

Carol L. Conklin-Spillane, Sleepy Hollow High School, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

More work needs to be done before legislating this change, moving forward now will do more harm than good. I am a supporter of professional accountability, as a means to elevating performance and strengthening professional practice to make us better able to serve the young people in our care. What is being put forth for immediate implementation misses the mark — it is incomplete, and short-sighted ... heavily emphasizing test scores and lacking in dimensionality. We need to look beyond the limitations of standardized tests and assess how well teachers and principals are implementing a broad range of research based best practices to foster growth and nurture learning for all students.

Neil J. Connolly, Carle Place Middle /High School, Carle Place, N.Y.

I have been a middle school/high school principal for 17 years and have been evaluating teachers for over 26 years. We do not need an evaluation system where teachers are publicly graded on state assessments and Regents examinations The idea that we can develop a fail safe system where we can assign a grade to a teacher based on an exam is frightening and unlikely since there is no research model nor evidence that supports such a belief. I observe teachers every day working hard and trying to make a difference. I know them, evaluate them, counsel them and teach them. I don't need a grade to help me do that.

What I support is a sound evaluation system where supervisors and principals formally and informally observe teachers. Test scores are not the true identity of a student nor should they be used to determine the ability of a teacher.

Andrew Greene, Candlewood Middle School, Half Hollow Hills, N.Y.

The Annual Professional Performance Review issue is ill conceived on many different levels. First, the research behind the use of Value Added Models is unproven and not reliable. You need look no further than the letter that was sent to the State Education Department from the Economic Policy Institute for evidence of this fact [Aug. 29, 2010, Briefing Paper].

There are numerous other researchers who are against the use of test scores to evaluate teachers and principals in the manner that the Education Department is proposing. Even if there are other researchers who support limited use of VAM models, is it not prudent to slow down since there is not universal agreement?

In addition, it is demoralizing to teachers and administrators to be given a “score” on their performance when the data being used to rate them is unstable."

Gerry Trietley, Olean Middle School, Olean, N.Y.

Instead of Occupy Wall Street, we should coordinate an occupy State Ed. If we could get folks to head to Albany for a weekend sometime soon, that would really help bring attention to this travesty taking place. We need to take a strong stance as we can't allow politicians and businessmen to take over our fine education system. Sure, we can improve, and increasing standards is great, but we all know this is happening for three reasons. Pure profit, anti-unionism, and the state doesn't want to address the issues of poverty and unequal state aid distribution equations. Therefore, they bash education at every step. Cuomo is happy as he has his tax cap in place and no relief from unfunded mandates anywhere to be found. Diane Ravitch sums it up best. She stated she has never seen a state work so hard to prove their education system is failing. Let's get to Albany soon.