[regional_school] Mike Winerip is spot on again!

  • From: "William Cala" <wcala@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <regional_school@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <ccse_core@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2011 12:24:40 -0500

I wonder if any Rochester principals are on the list????



Education" Column -- November 28, 2011 by Michael Winerip


Through the years there have been many bitter teacher strikes and too many
student protests to count. But a principals' revolt?


"Principals don't revolt," said Bernard Kaplan of Great Neck North High
School on Long Island, who has been one for 20 years. "Principals want to go
along with the system and do what they're told."


But President Obama and his signature education program, Race to the Top,
along with John B. King Jr., the New York State commissioner of education,
deserve credit for spurring what is believed to be the first principals'
revolt in history.


As of last night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter -

488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began - protesting the
use of students' test scores to evaluate teachers' and principals' 



Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in
slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate
only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York
tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year,
with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points


Mr. Kaplan, who runs one of the highest-achieving schools in the state, has
been evaluating teachers since the education commissioner was a teenager. No
matter. He is required by Nassau County officials to attend 10 training
sessions, as is Carol Burris, the principal of South Side High School here,
who was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators
Association of New York State.


"It's education by humiliation," Mr. Kaplan said. "I've never seen teachers
and principals so degraded."


The trainers at these sessions, which are paid for by state and federal
grants, have explained that they're figuring out the new evaluation system
as they go. To make the point, they've been showing a YouTube video with a
fictional crew of mechanics who are having the time of their lives building
an airplane in midair.


"It was supposed to be funny, but the room went silent," Ms. Burris said.
"These are people's livelihoods we're talking about."


Last year New York was awarded $700 million as one of 11 states, along with
the District of Columbia, to win a Race to the Top grant. The application
process was chaotic, with Dr. King's office making the deadline by just a
few hours. To win a grant, states had to pledge to follow policy priorities
of the Obama administration, like evaluating teachers by student test
scores, even though there were no implementation plans yet.


New York committed to an evaluation process that is based 60 percent on
principal observations and other subjective measures, and from 20 to 40
percent on state tests, depending on the local district.


In written responses to questions, Dr. King said while there are bugs in the
system, "we are confident that as the state law on teacher evaluations
phases in over the next couple of years, those educators charged with
ensuring its successful implementation will do so professionally."


Asked if he was surprised by the number of principals who had signed, he
wrote, "It's not at all surprising" that the introduction of a new
evaluation system "would produce anxiety."


Although testing is central to the education reform movement, the word
"testing" is considered crude in elite education circles, and in a
three-page response to questions, the commissioner never actually used the
t-word. However, he did include multiple euphemisms like "data on the growth
in student learning."


"A significant body of research," he wrote, "demonstrates that an educator's
past impact on student learning is a strong predictor of that educator's
future impact on student learning and a useful component of a fair,
transparent, and rigorous multiple measures evaluation system."


Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the Board of Regents, said that because of
the new "scientific, objective" evaluation system, the public would see that
teachers were being held to a rigorous standard and would not dislike them
so much. "I'm seeing a much more positive focus about teaching, and I like
that," she said.


It is hard to overstate how angry the principals who signed are. Mario
Fernandez, principal of Stillwater High School near Saratoga, called the
evaluation process a product of "ludicrous, shallow thinking."


"My gosh, it seems to be slapped together," he said. "They're expecting a
tornado to go through a junkyard and have a brand new Mercedes pop up."


Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook in
Dutchess County. said the training session she attended was "two days of
total nonsense."


"I have a Ph.D., I'm in a school every day, and some consultant is supposed
to be teaching me to do evaluations," she said. "It takes your breath away
it's so awful."


She said one good thing about the new evaluation system was that it had
united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the
state education department.


Several interviewed said the most reliable way to evaluate teachers was to
make 5-to-10-minute "walk through" visits to their classes several times a
month. "My principal is frequently in my class, and that's the way it should
be," said Marguerite Izzo, a fifth-grade teacher in Malverne, on Long
Island, who was the 2007 state teacher of the year.


Ms. Izzo calls students up to her desk, one by one, every day to discuss
their work. "It's the same for children or teachers: immediate feedback is
best, while it's still fresh in their minds," she said.


The principals' letter was drafted last month by Ms. Burris and Sean Feeney
of the Wheatley School. "We tried and tried to talk to the state, but they
don't listen to us," Ms. Burris said.


In his responses, Dr. King wrote, "The principals do raise some legitimate
concerns that we are carefully addressing." But he also wrote, "The
structure of the evaluation system - including the use of data on the growth
in student learning - is set in state statute." 

(Translation: Testing full speed ahead.)


About 300 principals out of 4,500 in the state had signed by early November,
when Newsday wrote a front-page story about the letter. There has been
steady growth since. Three-fourths of Long Island principals have placed
their names on the list.


Outside of Long Island, Westchester County has the most principals on the
letter, 31.


Only 18 out of 1,500 from New York City have signed. Ms. Burris is not sure
if the principals are not aware, or if they fear retribution from Mayor
Michael R. Bloomberg, who is a big supporter of using data to calculate
growth in student learning.





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