Accountability

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.
New York

New accountability chief says he'll carry on Liebman's legacy

New York

Saying discharges are up, report demands grad rate audit

Six years after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed to crack down on a bureaucratic loophole that allowed principals to hide students' failure to graduate high school, a new report (PDF) suggests that the loophole remains open and may be growing wider. The report calls for closer study of the students classified as "discharges" — departures from the system, but not dropouts — through steps including a state audit. The report says that 21 percent of students who entered high school in 2003 both never graduated and were never counted as dropouts, instead falling into a category known as "discharges." The percentage was up from 17.5 percent among the Class of 2000. The rate is especially high among special education students, and includes a remarkable jump in 2005, when the special education discharge rate shot up to 36 percent from 23 percent in a single year. Students classified as discharges can include those who left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state, deciding to enroll in an outside G.E.D. program, or death. But some advocates have argued that principals can also misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. A recent audit of 12 high schools in New York State by the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, found that high schools classified students as G.E.D. discharges who did not actually enroll in a G.E.D. program. "As a result," DiNapoli's audit concluded, "the report cards understated the number and percentage of dropouts and overstated the percentage of graduates for some of the schools we reviewed." The audit did not probe any New York City high schools. Two persistent critics of the Bloomberg administration compiled the report: the executive director of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, Jennifer Jennings. Jennings was the author of the now-defunct Eduwonkette blog, whose analysis of New York City education data became (as I reported) a thorn in the Bloomberg administration's side. The report is being released at a press conference this morning held by a third critic, the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. City school officials were already disputing the report's claims yesterday, before it had been released.
New York

NYU is building an accountability system to measure its teachers

Robert Tobias The former testing czar at the old Board of Education, Robert Tobias, sometimes offers criticism of the accountability programs being produced these days at Tweed Courthouse. He's also been hatching an accountability system of his own — this one to study the effectiveness of teachers produced by New York University's school of education, where he now works. Preliminary results suggest that teachers trained at NYU are getting above-average results in English, but they give students no extra boost on math tests, Tobias said last week at the educational research conference Philissa and I attended in San Diego. He also found that NYU-trained elementary-school teachers produced significantly greater results for students than middle-school teachers, and that the teachers get better as they become more experienced. The effect tapers off at between five and nine years into the job, he said. Tobias's results could provide one clue about what's being found in an ongoing research project about teacher training programs in New York City. So far, that project has found that different programs produced different student results but has not named the programs that had the largest effects. The results could also be important as alternative teacher training programs like Teach For America increasingly bring into question the need for traditional programs based entirely at universities. "As a dean I want to say I want to steal these three and have them do it at my school," said Rick Ginsberg, who runs the education school at the University of Kansas, referring to the professors working with Tobias. “We’re fighting this battle all the time.”