Hundreds of Long Island public school principals including six in Wantagh and Seaford are challenging the state Education Department and criticizing new standards for evaluating educators.
The new rules went into effect in September as New York State worked to win federal money under the Race to the Top program, which the White House said is designed to promote "innovation, reform, and excellence in America’s public schools."
Teachers and principals are evaluated, in part, on student performance on standardized tests. In an open letter regarding New York State's APPR legislation, all five building principals in the Wantagh School District and Seaford Middle School Principal Daniel Smith were part of 368 principals across Long Island to address the concerns over the new rules.
“As building principals, we applaud efforts aimed towards excellence for all of our students. We cannot, however, stand by while untested practices are put in place without any meaningful discussion or proven research,” they say on a new website.
“At first glance, using test scores might seem like a reasonable approach to accountability. As designed, however, these regulations carry unintended negative consequences for our schools and students that simply cannot be ignored,” the principals say.
Teachers and principals receive a rating of 0-100 with 20 to 40 percent of their score coming from their students’ test performance.
“I applaud all those principals for taking a stand,” said Tom Vereline, president of Wantagh United Teachers. “Most districts feel as if they are being rushed into the new evaluation system.”
Vereline emphasized that “the vast majority of educators support some sort of new system” but the implementation of it needs to be reviewed more before proceeding.
“We realize that given the high property taxes Long Islanders pay, they want to know their children are being taught by qualified educators,” said Vereline. “However, there are just too many uncertainties in the new system and if we don’t proceed carefully, implementation of it may do more harm than good.”
The website, which includes a copy of an open letter, lists several objections to the system, arguing that tax dollars are being diverted from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors; that the emphasis on evaluations will damage children as schools put too much focus on test results, and that educational experts say there is no evidence that such a system improves students’ education.
“We, principals of Long Island schools, conclude that the proposed APPR process is an unproven system that is wasteful of increasingly limited resources. More importantly, it will prove to be deeply demoralizing to educators and harmful to the children in our care,” the website says.
The letter was written by Dr. Sean Feeney, principal of The Wheatley School in East Williston and president of the Nassau County High School Principals Association, and Carol Corbett Burris of South Side High School in Rockville Centre. In July, Burris sent a memo to U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in July, outlining her objections to poor evaluation systems.
The state Board of Regents approved the evaluation system in May. “These evaluations will play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including promotion, retention, tenure determinations, termination, and supplemental compensation, and will be a significant factor in teacher and principal professional development,” the state Education Department said at the time.
Educators are rated on this basis, the department said.
- 20% -- student growth on state assessments or a comparable measure of student achievement growth (increases to 25% upon implementation of a value-added growth model);
- 20% -- locally-selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (decreases to 15% upon implementation of a value-added growth model); and
- 60% -- other measures of teacher/principal effectiveness.