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City principals' satisfaction rates declined last year, survey says

The vast majority of city principals say they’re happy with the support they get from the Department of Education, according to the latest results of the city’s survey of school leaders. But the number of contented principals has slipped.

Nearly three-quarters of principals reported feeling satisfied or very satisfied with how the city helps them do their jobs on the most recent survey, which was given in November. That’s a six percentage point drop from last April, the last time the survey was administered, and it’s the lowest level since the city began surveying school leaders in 2007.

The survey also shows a dip in principals’ satisfaction with former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein during his last year in office. The number of principals happy with Klein’s leadership in boosting student achievement fell by 10 percentage points between November 2009 and 2010, with smaller numbers reporting satisfaction with his record with regards to school resources, oversight and curriculum as well.

Principals answered the questionnaire in November and December 2010, just after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Klein’s surprise resignation from the DOE and the appointment of new Chancellor Cathie Black.

The biggest decline in principal satisfaction appeared to be regarding the human resources tools that help school leaders evaluate their staff. In April 2010, 98 percent of principals who responded to the survey said that the city’s online rating system for teacher evaluations was effective; in November, only 73 percent rated the system as helpful. The percentage of principals who reported that they find the tenure notification system and the system that provides information on licensing and certification helpful also fell.

Unlike previous surveys, the results of this year’s questionnaire do not report whether principals felt that they had enough information and support to guide tenure decisions or deal with low-performing teachers. In April, 83 percent of principals said they had the resources to “address low-performing employees,” and 93 percent said they had “sufficient support and information” to make tenure decisions.

One particularly bright spot on the survey was in principals’ satisfactions with the networks that manage how schools receive administrative support. More than 90 percent of principals say they are happy with the quality of support their networks provide, a number that has remained consistent over the past few years even as the city has reshuffled the structure of the support groups. And the survey shows a nine-point jump from April to November in the percentage of principals who said their network understood the unique needs of their schools.

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