The Dirty Little Secret: Principals Are Poor Evaluators of Teacher Effectiveness, and The Use of Student Achievement Data Is Unsupported By Research.


The Chancellor is profligate in his love affairs, from mega regions, to Support Organizations, to Empowerment, to Networks to CFNs. His one true love is William Ouchi, the author of Making School Work,
Researchers discovered that the schools that consistently performed best also had the most decentralized management systems — individual principals, not administrators in a central office, controlled school budgets and personnel. They were fully responsible and fully accountable for the performance of their schools. With greater freedom and flexibility to shape their educational programs, hire specialists as needed, and generally determine the direction of their school, the best principals will act as entrepreneurs,
The flaw in the Ouchi world is that it presupposes principals have the experience to make the “right” decisions. New York City has been flooded with graduates of the speed dating principal training programs, the Leadership Academy and New Leaders for New Schools. School leaders with limited or no teaching experience and no supervisory experience.
Saul Bruckner was the principal of ER Murrow High School for three decades, before becoming principal he was an exemplary teacher as well as an assistant principal in two schools, and, during his entire tenure as principal taught a class.
Diane Ravitch recalls,
…. that Mr. Bruckner had a long period of apprenticeship before becoming a principal, serving as a teacher, department supervisor and assistant principal, beginning in 1956. His status as a “master teacher,” helped him attract, retain and train his staff. “There are not many principals left from the old school,”
The new principal of PS 198K gave ten U-ratings in June, 2009, about a quarter of her staff. The teachers were among the most senior in the school, all of whom have always received excellent ratings. Their “crime?” They disagreed with her, and, she “suspected” that they had complained about her frequent allusions to Christianity was inappropriate. Can we trust her decisions?
The standard method of teacher evaluation hasn’t changed in half a century, or more, the formal classroom observation. The principal sits in on a lesson, meets with the teacher, and writes a summary of the lesson, with “commendations” and “recommendations,” and concludes with a “this is a (un)satisfactory lesson.”
It is difficult to find a teacher who finds the current system useful.
Randi Weingarten, in a cogent speech that has resonated in schools and legislatures around the country hits the proverbial nail on the head,

“For too long and too often, teacher evaluation—in both design and implementation—has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving and informing teaching so as to better educate all students,” Weingarten said, adding the AFT’s proposed evaluation system is intended to inform tenure, employment decisions and due process proceedings.

Currently, Weingarten said, evaluations usually involve perfunctory observations and a “rating” at the end of the school year. “That’s like a football team watching game tape once the season is over,” she said.

Players and coaches deconstruct every play, analyze every call, understand what’s working and what isn’t, so they can constantly improve and win, she said. “We need to put the same time and effort into developing and evaluating teachers. And we need to ensure that the women and men who teach our children are participants in every stage of the process. That’s what we mean when we say do these things ‘with us, not to us.'”

If principals are ineffective evaluators of teachers, why not simply use data?

Seventy percent of teachers teach classes that are not subject to standardized exams. (ELA and Math in grades 3-8).

The Teacher Data Initiative that compares teachers who teach “similar” students has shown sharp variations from year to year.  Jesse Rothstein’s research  casts doubt the validity of this type of data.

The Joel Klein blind faith in the principal as the decider of whom should be excessed or who should be laid off is unsupported by any research.  In fact, data shows that principals are ineffective “hirers” of new teachers.

From the 2005-06 school year to 2008-09 school year 31,803 teachers have left the school system, 22,353 have left for the following reasons: resignation, sub termination, probationary discontinuance, failure to return from leave, absent without notice, failure to meet state requirements. Most of these teachers were hired by principals under the Open Market System. Why are principals hiring so many teachers who leave?

Interestingly NYS law suggests that “peer review become part of the tenure-granting process.

At the UFT Spring Conference Michael Mulgrew and Joel Klein hinted at the importance of working together. Maybe Joel should divorce Bill Ouchi and realize that working with the union is in the interest of the entire school system. His current path of teacher abuse is futile.


2 responses to “The Dirty Little Secret: Principals Are Poor Evaluators of Teacher Effectiveness, and The Use of Student Achievement Data Is Unsupported By Research.

  1. Can an untenured teacher receive a U and have her probationary period continued?


  2. Yes, in Illinois they can make that offer.


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