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Principals Face Review in Education Overhaul

PUBLISHED: April 12, 2006 | By ELISSA GOOTMAN | New York Times

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein yesterday accelerated his drive to hold educators accountable for student achievement, announcing that New York City's more than 1,400 schools will be graded each year just like students, from A to F. Principals whose schools persistently fail could be removed, he said.

Mr. Klein said schools' grades would be determined largely by a more sophisticated analysis of annual standardized test scores. In addition, officials would look at a new set of satisfaction surveys, to be completed by parents, teachers and students.

Any effort to remove principals based on the new grades could require changes in their contract, according to their union. Under their current contract, principals are rated satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and critics say even poor principals are rarely penalized.

Mr. Klein and his aides said the most critical factor in deciding the schools' grades would be how individual students' test scores improve from one year to the next. So, for example, a school where students make great strides but do not ultimately score on grade level could receive a good grade, while a school in which most students are on grade level could get a low mark if their test scores do not improve from the year before.

Special emphasis will be placed on a school's ability to raise the performance of its lowest-achieving students.

This kind of analysis differs from New York State's rating system under the federal No Child Left Behind law because it would follow individual students from year to year as opposed to judging, say, this year's fourth graders against last year's to measure school progress.

The federal government has also begun experimenting with the same kind of analysis and is planning to authorize some states to use such a system in meeting the law's requirements that all students reach proficiency by 2014.

"No longer will you have to look at a snapshot, which is what I think N.C.L.B. gives you," Chancellor Klein said at a briefing yesterday. "You'll be able to look at a moving picture."

In making the announcement, Mr. Klein made good on a pledge to assess schools in a more nuanced way. The new system, to begin in September 2007, is a first step in an effort to free principals from bureaucracy and enable them to take more control over their schools. Mr. Klein is now planning that effort with a team of consultants.

It is also intended to give parents critical information about their schools. Officials said the grades would be posted online.

Jill S. Levy, president of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, the principals' union, said that she had not seen specifics of the proposal, but that if the chancellor wanted to change the way principals are rated and removed, he would have to negotiate with the union.

Under the current contract, principals are given annual reviews, which consider an array of factors, from student performance to communication with parents. But that contract expired nearly three years ago, and contract talks are deadlocked.

"I think that in doing this, Joel is going to alienate not only his current principals and other supervisors, but potential principals and supervisors in the city of New York," Ms. Levy said. "They don't have a contract, he has not acknowledged their work in implementing what they've done until now, he's not been forthright in telling the people that 'what I've done so far has failed to accomplish what it was intended to do.' "

She said the new report card system was like "a sword of Damocles" over principals' heads.

The chancellor said that the new system was a work in progress and that there was no clear timeline for determining when a failing school's principal should be removed.

"You don't want to try to put in place a fixed timetable," he said. "If you come to the conclusion that the school is not capable of doing the work that it needs to do, based on a multitude of factors, then it's time to either change the leadership, restructure, or move on. We can't continue to subject our kids to a school that is not performing at the level that our kids deserve."

Under the new system, schools will be judged against citywide averages as well as against other schools with similar proportions of poor, minority, special-education or non-English-speaking students. Mr. Klein said schools that outperformed others in their "peer groups" would be rewarded with extra money, although he did not say how much.

He estimated that the new effort would cost the city up to $25 million to design and carry out, and said he hoped to cover as much of it as possible with private donations.

In addition to being graded based on standardized English and math test scores and the satisfaction surveys, elementary and middle schools will also be evaluated on attendance and safety.

High schools, which do not administer standardized English and math exams, will be judged on students' performance on Regents exams, PSAT and SAT scores, the percentage of students who take the SAT, and graduation rates. Special attention will be paid to how special-education and non-English students fare.

In addition to the grades, schools will also get "quality reviews," based on factors like principals' leadership skills, parent involvement, and how effectively schools use data to monitor students' progress.

Lisa B. Donlan, a vice president of the District 1 Community Education Council, a board of elected parent volunteers, who attended a briefing on the new accountability system for parent leaders on Monday evening, said many parents had concerns.

Ms. Donlan said she applauded the effort to analyze data more carefully. But she also wondered if the chancellor was placing even more emphasis on standardized tests, and what recourse parents would have if their childrens' schools were poorly graded, since in many cases options to change schools are limited.

"The reaction of parents right away was, 'Do you understand that we go to zoned schools, most of us, and this is not a competitive market?' she said. "Many of us are being held prisoners of our own addresses. People were really trying to figure out what will it mean when my school gets an F."

James S. Liebman, the Department of Education's chief accountability officer, said a pilot project of the quality review system had already begun, and a pilot of the grading system is to begin in September.

In conjunction with the new grading system, Mr. Liebman said the Department of Education would provide schools with minitests in English and math, to be given in kindergarten through 12th grade every six to eight weeks. Those tests, he said, will enable teachers to figure out which students need help, and principals to figure out which teachers need help.

Red Alert!
Let's Opt Out of the April 2014 NYS Tests

Parents can refuse to allow their child to take the State high stakes tests. Hand in this letter to your principal [other formats: .pdf .odt .doc]. En Español: [otros formatos: .pdf .odt .doc] Send your child to school and ask that an alternative activity be planned for him/her during the 6 days of testing.

Information for Parents who want to Opt Out:

Feel free to duplicate these flyers and give them to other parents!

We also have a magazine explaining Common Core, High Stakes Testing, and InBloom to parents. Varios artículos de esta revista fueron traducidos a Español.

Opt Out New York
New material to support the April Boycott.
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Did You Know?
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Music Video: "Not on the Test"
Produced by: Public School Test Records and Grammy Award-winner Tom Chapin

produced by Naava Katz Design