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Principal evaluation results stabilized with test scores last year

As test scores stabilized last year, so did principals’ evaluations.

Two years ago, the state made it harder for students to score proficient on state exams. Scores dropped — and so did principals’ ratings, because the ratings are based almost entirely on student test scores.

Last year’s test scores were more consistent with the previous year’s results. Almost 90 percent of schools received the same grade on their city progress report as they had the year before, or rose or fell by just one letter grade.

Because of the way the city calculates principals’ performance ratings, the stable test scores meant that most principals’ annual ratings could only improve. As a result, only about 1 percent of principals — 18 out of 1,485 — got the lowest rating on the city’s five-point scale in 2010-2011. More than 25 percent landed in the highest category, “substantially meets expectations.”

Of the lowest-scoring principals, only five remained in their position this year.

GothamSchools obtained the data on principal performance through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The data showed that most of the principals who had been at schools slated for “turnaround” for more than two years — and who thus would have to be replaced under federal rules — met expectations last year. One of them, Long Island City High School’s principal, Maria Mamo-Vacacela, exceeded expectations. But she was replaced this year amid turnaround and after a scheduling debacle angered students and teachers.

The principal evaluation formula that has been in place since 2006 bases 32 percent of a principal’s annual “grade” on his school’s progress report score, 22 percent on the Quality Review grade, 10 percent on legal compliance, and 5 percent on offering special education services. The remaining 31 percent of the Principal Performance Review grade is based on whether principals have met the “goals and objectives” they set out for themselves — goals that Department of Education officials say are best when they relate to student achievement. The formula means that a principal at a school where test scores are increasing is virtually assured of a passing evaluation, no matter what teachers, parents, or the community superintendent thinks.

New evaluations for principals required under state law would diminish the role of test scores and shrink the scale to four tiers instead of five. They would also be likely to add new responsibilities to community superintendents, whose role in principal evaluation has shrunk considerably since the formula has been in place. The city and principals union have not yet agreed upon specifics for the new evaluations.

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