Geraldine Maione, principal of William E. Grady High School, has signed onto a petition opposing the state's new teacher evaluations.
The newest signatories to a petition against the state's new teacher evaluation system include one of the few principals who actually has experience with the new evaluations.
Geraldine Maione heads Brooklyn's William E. Grady High School, which is among 33 "persistently low-achieving" city schools that are using the new evaluations in exchange for additional federal funds.
She told me that she opposes the new evaluations because they are so formulaic that they leave little room for principals to exercise discretion.
"When I walk in a classroom, I know when children are learning and teachers are teaching," she said, adding that tougher evaluations aren't necessary if principals push struggling teachers either to improve or move on.
"No teacher has a forever job if the principal is doing her job," Maione said.
Maione is among about 30 city principals who have signed onto a position 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. That's a sharp rise from last month, when hundreds of principals statewide had signed on but only two active city principals were on the list.
iSchool students taking part in a Model United Nations class that the IDEA tour visited
Ammerah Saidi, a program coordinator with Detroit Future Schools, meandered in and out of classrooms in the iSchool one morning last week. She had her pick of classes to observe – classes such as "Sixteen," a course designed around the question of what it means to be 16 in New York City, and Cartography, where students creatively mapped their hearts and fictional worlds.
Saidi was one of nearly 30 educators, advocates, and consultants from across the country and world taking part in a two-day, three-borough tour of schools and programs that promote democratic education.
“To hear about student-centeredness is one thing, but to feel it is something different,” Saidi said later in the day. “I love being reminded that it should be about the students at all times.”
That getting up close and personal with democratic modes of schooling is likely to inspire educators to change their practice is the theory behind the Institute for Democratic Education in America's "Innovation Tours" of city schools. Inspired by an Israeli organization, IDEA promotes the vision that students and communities should be democratically invested in their schools. To get educators to sign on, the group exposes them to democratic models of schooling in action. The goal of each Innovation Tour, which IDEA co-founders Dana Bennis and Jonah Canner lead, is for participants to walk away with ideas about how to broaden participation in their own communities — and then to implement those ideas, with IDEA's help.
“We’re not just creating a certain school and modeling it and building it out around the country,” said Bennis, now IDEA’s director of research and programs. “This is about communities coming together and asking: What are our goals for education? What do we want to achieve?”
During last week's tour, the group's third since its founding in 2010, participants visited the iSchool, a centerpiece of the Department of Education's Innovation Zone, and Urban Academy, the alternative high school on the Upper East Side whose students demonstrate proficiency through presentations and projects instead of Regents exams. They heard the principal of Brooklyn's P.S. 28 describe her vision for a school that helps everyone in the community, not just the students who are enrolled. And they saw how The Point, a community group in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, works with new schools, develops green spaces, and provides outlets for creativity.