survey says

Principal dissatisfaction reaches new heights, union head says

City principals are increasingly unhappy with their jobs, according to the union that represents them.

In the latest newsletter from the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, President Ernest Logan reported that 73 percent of union members are not happy with their workload, compensation, and job security. That’s up from 68 percent the last time the union surveyed its members, in 2009.

The survey of CSA members was conducted by Global Strategy Group in September and October, according to Chiara Coletti, a union spokeswoman. She said assistant principals and other administrators in the union were less dissatisfied, leading to an overall dissatisfaction rate of 59 percent. In 2009, that number was 48 percent.

In recent years, principals have seen their role shift from setting a vision and strategy for instruction to managing a seemingly unending list of procedural tasks. In his first communication with principals in April, Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to cut down on their paperwork load, and in November he outlined steps that he said would cut down time spent on administrative tasks by an hour a day. 

Coletti said the survey was conducted too early to register whether those steps were paying off. She said union members were neutral on Walcott himself; Logan called the chancellor a “good hearted placeholder.”

But in his letter, Logan said years of administrative reorganizations, budget cuts, and added pressure without reward had threatened to turn educators off from becoming school leaders.

“Today, when there are no raises, no good-faith contract negotiations and little promise of happier economic times, we can’t count on an endless supply of experienced APs, [education administrators], and teachers to inherit the Principal’s chair,” Logan wrote. “They have a bird’s eye view of what could happen once they sit in that chair.”

The union’s survey results are very different from the city’s determination of principal satisfaction, but they share the same trajectory. Last year, a city survey of principals found that nearly three quarters reported that they were happy with the support they were getting from the Department of Education. But even that number was the lowest since the city began surveying principals in 2007.

Asked about the CSA survey, Stephen Duch, the principal of Hillcrest High School in Queens, cited stalemates in labor negotiations as one frustration for principals. “There are a lot of things that we know would make for better schools, including a revised teacher evaluation, including having our teachers have a contract, including the fact of having the supervisors have a contract,” he said. He added, “Maybe since the new year has just begun, we can all exhale and start all over again and attempt to work collaboratively with each other for what we really believe is our core values.”

Duch also cited tight budgets as a factor. “We know that we’re in declining times of resources, and that we have to do more with less,” he said. “We’re trying to introduce so many new things at the same time that some days, it can seem overwhelming or insurmountable.”

money matters

Report: Trump education budget would create a Race to the Top for school choice

PHOTO: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participate in a tour of Saint Andrews Catholic in Orlando, Florida.

The Trump administration appears to be going ahead with a $1 billion effort to push districts to allow school choice, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The newspaper obtained what appears to be an advance version of the administration’s education budget, set for release May 23. The budget documents reflect more than $10 billion in cuts, many of which were included in the budget proposal that came out in March, according to the Post’s report. They include cuts to after-school programs for poor students, teacher training, and more:

… a $15 million program that provides child care for low-income parents in college; a $27 million arts education program; two programs targeting Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students, totaling $65 million; two international education and foreign language programs, $72 million; a $12 million program for gifted students; and $12 million for Special Olympics education programs.

Other programs would not be eliminated entirely, but would be cut significantly. Those include grants to states for career and technical education, which would lose $168 million, down 15 percent compared to current funding; adult basic literacy instruction, which would lose $96 million (down 16 percent); and Promise Neighborhoods, an Obama-era initiative meant to build networks of support for children in needy communities, which would lose $13 million (down 18 percent).

The documents also shed some light on how the administration plans to encourage school choice. The March proposal said the administration would spend $1 billion to encourage districts to switch to “student-based budgeting,” or letting funds flow to students rather than schools.

The approach is considered essential for school choice to thrive. Yet the mechanics of the Trump administration making it happen are far from obvious, as we reported in March:

There’s a hitch in the budget proposal: Federal law spells out exactly how Title I funds must be distributed, through funding formulas that sends money to schools with many poor students.

“I do not see a legal way to spend a billion dollars on an incentive for weighted student funding through Title I,” said Nora Gordon, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. “I think that would have to be a new competitive program.”

There are good reasons for the Trump administration not to rush into creating a program in which states compete for new federal funds, though. … Creating a new program would open the administration to criticism of overreach — which the Obama administration faced when it used the Race to the Top competition to get states to adopt its priorities.

It’s unclear from the Post’s report how the Trump administration is handling Gordon’s concerns. But the Post reports that the administration wants to use a competitive grant program — which it’s calling Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success, or FOCUS — to redistribute $1 billion in Title I funds for poor students. That means the administration decided that an Obama-style incentive program is worth the potential risks.

The administration’s budget request would have to be fulfilled by Congress, so whether any of the cuts or new programs come to pass is anyone’s guess. Things are not proceeding normally in Washington, D.C., right now.

By the numbers

After reshaping itself to combat declining interest, Teach For America reports a rise in applications

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Memphis corps members of Teach For America participate in a leadership summit in last August.

Teach for America says its application numbers jumped by a significant number this year, reversing a three-year trend of declining interest in the program.

The organization’s CEO said in a blog post this week that nearly 49,000 people applied for the 2017 program, which places college graduates in low-income schools across the country after summer training — up from just 37,000 applicants last year.

“After three years of declining recruitment, our application numbers spiked this year, and we’re in a good position to meet our goals for corps size, maintaining the same high bar for admission that we always have,” Elisa Villanueva Beard wrote. The post was reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The news comes after significant shake-ups at the organization. One of TFA’s leaders left in late 2015, and the organization slashed its national staff by 15 percent last year. As applications fell over the last several years, it downsized in places like New York City and Memphis, decentralized its operations, and shifted its focus to attracting a more diverse corps with deeper ties to the locations where the program places new teachers. 

This year’s application numbers are still down from 2013, when 57,000 people applied for a position. But Villanueva Beard said the changes were working, and that “slightly more than half of 2017 applicants identify as a person of color.”