happiness report

Survey finds shift in principals' favored city education initiatives

The city's presentation on the results of last year's Principal Satisfaction Survey show that some initiatives have fallen out of favor with school leaders as new ones have emerged.

The Department of Education’s tools to assess schools are falling out of favor with New York City principals, according to results of the city’s most recent survey of school leaders. Instead, principals are getting behind new reforms that are aimed to strengthen individual students and teachers.

Released this week, the findings are based on principals’ responses to the ninth round of the survey, known as the Principal Satisfaction Survey. Since 2007, the education department has administered the surveys to principals to get feedback about the support they are receiving.

Overall, about three out of four principals said they were generally happy with how the city helps them do their jobs, slightly more than last year but lower than in 2009, when an all-time high of more than 80 percent of principals said they were satisfied. But the department initiatives that won the strongest approval have shifted, and principals reported being much less happy with the support they receive for students with disabilities.

In the past, the survey has also polled principals on their satisfaction with the chancellor and the Panel for Educational Policy, the school board that has never rejected a city proposal. But those questions were not on the survey when it was administered at the end of 2011-2012 school year.

City officials said they removed a third of the survey’s questions this year in an effort to reduce principals’ administrative workload, something Chancellor Dennis Walcott promised to do when he first took office last year. Officials said questions were cut for a host of reasons: Some get asked in other surveys or are no longer relevant, others had elicited the same responses over time, and others yet do not led to “actionable feedback,” according to the department’s presentation about the survey results.

The results show that, compared to two years ago, a smaller share of principals are satisfied with the city’s more established accountability tools. In 2010, 65 percent of principals said they considered the city’s Quality Review and its Progress Reports helpful tools in improving student outcomes. This year, those satisfaction rates fell to 55 percent and 57 percent, respectively. Quality reviews examine how schools function as organizations, while progress reports crunch student performance data to measure how well each school is doing compared to other schools like it.

The trends were similar when principals were asked to evaluate the assessments as tools to improve teacher practice. Satisfaction slumped from 62 percent to 53 percent for the progress reports and 68 percent to 60 percent for the quality reviews, according to the data.

In contrast, the principals were more optimistic about newer reforms. Three out of four responding principals said they believed the Common Core standards, which are rolling out this year, would lead to better student outcomes. The same proportion said they thought more meaningful teacher observations, which are required under state law to be adopted in the future, would improve teacher practice.

But their responses to questions about the department’s support for special education services suggested that not all felt prepared for a third focus of the new school year, special education reforms meant to include more students with disabilities in general education classes. Just 71 percent of principals said they were satisfied with the professional development they were getting around special education, and even fewer — 65 percent — said they were happy with the technical support they received, including about the first phase of the reforms. The previous year, nearly three quarters of principals said they were happy with the department’s special education supports.

For the seventh straight time, at least 90 percent of the principals said they were satisfied with the support provided to them by the networks that they partner with to receive administrative support. The level of support has remained consistent even as the city has reshuffled the structure of the support groups.

Principals’ response rate to the questionnaire was the lowest since the Department of Education first administered the anonymous survey in 2007. Just 76 percent of the 1,568 principals that the city asked to fill out surveys responded, down from 90 percent just a year ago.

City officials said one reason the response rate was lower this year was that the survey was distributed only once, instead of multiple times, in a move also meant to reduce principals’ workload.

The department’s presentation about the latest principal survey results is below.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.