Evaluations petition sees support boost among city principals

More New York City principals signed on to a statewide petition opposing new teacher evaluations at a time when tension over the evaluations mounted locally.

Nearly 100 city principals have signed the two-month-old petition, along with more than 1,000 principals from other school districts. The tally of city signatories is up significantly from 30 a month ago and just two in the weeks after the petition launched, when it had already garnered signatures from hundreds of schools leaders across the state.

The participation rate is far lower in the city than in the rest of the state. Overall, more than a quarter of principals have lent their support to a paper arguing that the state’s evaluation requirements — which 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.

But it is still a cause for celebration for the two Long Island principals who started the petition in November.

“Support among our New York City colleagues has increased notably these past few weeks!” they wrote in an update to supporters sent late Tuesday.

One of them, Sean Feeney, speculated to me in November that city principals were both afraid of speaking out and already accustomed, from the city’s own experiments, to the idea that student test scores would be used to rate teachers.

“The city’s been living with this for a while,” he said.

But in recent weeks, the idea that the new evaluations had taken hold in New York City came into question when a high-stakes impasse between the teachers union and the city effectively suspended the new evaluations in 33 schools where it was thought they would be required this year. The impasse also caused the city to cut off negotiations with the principals union over evaluations for its members, who say they are increasingly unhappy with their jobs.

The new names on the list span all five boroughs and include the principals of a school that is phasing out, a school that escaped the closure axe this year, three schools in notoriously conservative Staten Island, and a Queens middle school where budget cuts are thought to be threatening academic gains.