donald freeman

New York

Cautionary evaluation petition attracts principals, but not in NYC

Across the state, hundreds of principals have signed onto a petition urging the state to proceed cautiously with new teacher evaluations. Only two of them currently run New York City schools. The petition is attached to a position paper arguing that the state's evaluation regulations — 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. Nearly three quarters of principals on Long Island, where the paper originated, have signed on, as well as hundreds of principals from districts across the state and even the country. Sean Feeney, a Long Island principal who helped write the position paper earlier this month in his capacity as president of the Nassau County High School Principals Association, said toughening teacher evaluations is a worthy goal, but the state's requirements aren't the best way to accomplish it. "We've got a ship that’s sailed on a dangerous course through uncharted waters and we’re not prepared — and somehow that’s okay and we have to go full-steam ahead," he said. "We're betting people's careers on something that does not work. It's unconscionable." Feeney speculated that city principals are less shocked by the state's evaluation requirements because the city has already tried to develop "value-added" evaluations of some teachers using student test scores. "The city’s been living with this for a while," he said. Plus, he said about city principals, "I think they’re a little more nervous" about jeopardizing their jobs by speaking out.