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Principals say evaluation legislation won’t derail their protest

The Long Island principals who galvanized opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s teacher evaluation proposals say they won’t let the fact that the proposals won legislative approval stop their protest.

Together, Sean Feeney and Carol Burris in October launched a petition critiquing the evaluation system that has garnered more than 8,000 signatures, nearly 1,500 of them from principals. The petition argued that the state’s evaluation regulations — which require a portion of teachers’ and principals’ 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.

Those issues haven’t disappeared just because the legislature agreed late last night to turn Cuomo’s proposals into law, Feeney and Burris said today.

They said they would still run an ad featuring about 70 principals in next week’s Legislative Gazette, and they would still ask lawmakers to shield teachers’ ratings from transparency laws that could land the ratings in newspapers, as happened last month in New York City. More than that, they said, they would still speak out about problems they have identified in the evaluation system’s requirements.

“One way or another we have to stand up for what we believe in, and no matter what happens, we’ve stated and articulated our position,” Feeney told me this morning. “We’ll see what happens after that.” “We’re going to continue to fight on,” said Burris. “Whether the law is passed or whether the law isn’t passed, we have an ethical obligation to speak out against an evaluation system that will hurt schools.”

Burris has drawn attention for her contention that teachers who score no points on the two student performance components of the evaluations should not automatically receive the lowest rating. But a far bigger problem, she said today, is the scoring quirk that means that teachers could score in the “effective” range on the two student performance components and receive as many as 75 percent of the available points on the third component but still fall in the “ineffective” range overall.

“I don’t know if they don’t understand or if they have just decided that they don’t care about the welfare of so many teachers,” Burris said about the legislators.

Among the roughly 70 principals who traveled Monday to Burris’s school for a photo shoot to prepare the lobbying ad were three from New York City: P.S. 321’s Elizabeth Phillips, Brooklyn New School’s Anna Allanbrook, and Nate Dudley from the Harbor School on Governor’s Island.

“It may be too late for this round, but this law has not been thought through and will be problematic on so many levels,” Dudley told me today.