New York

Support for changes in way superintendents evaluate principals

A Senate amendment to the Assembly's school governance law that hasn't gotten much attention is one that would establish "quality of curriculum and instruction" as a basis on which superintendents must evaluate principals. It's a move that people familiar with the Department of Education say is desperately needed. Legally, superintendents in each district have always been responsible for rating principals. But in recent years, a shift to a more formulaic evaluation process has stripped superintendents of their influence, say people familiar with the evaluation process. "The DOE has depended more on the accountability system rather than on what the superintendents determined," said David Bloomfield, a professor at Brooklyn College who helps train school administrators. "There's a lack of clarity about the role of what the superintendent is," said Judi Aronson, a former superintendent. "Although theoretically they evaluate principals and sign off on many documents relating to evaluation, evaluation is only by the metrics of the progress report, PPR, and quality review." The metrics Aronson referred to were put in place in January 2008, when the city changed the formula for principal evaluation as a result of the principals union contract agreed upon two years ago. The formula based 32 percent of a principal's annual "grade" on his school's progress report score, 22 percent on the Quality Review grade, 10 percent on legal compliance, and 5 percent on offering special education services. The remaining 31 percent of the Principal Performance Review grade has been based on whether principals have met the "goals and objectives" they set out for themselves, goals that officials say are best when they relate to student achievement. The formula means that a principal at a school where test scores are increasing is virtually assured of a passing evaluation, no matter what teachers, parents, or the community superintendent thinks.