Hundreds of Long Island public school principals 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.
“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.
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.
Though Southold School District Principals William Galati in the and Ellen O’Neil in the signed the open letter, they were unavailable for comment. But Jennifer Conway, the head of said that she backs the principals’ challenge and is 100 percent against the program. S — a documentary that addressed this exact topic.
“My personal feeling is that standardized testing is destroying the education of our youth,” she said. “These kids are being taught how to pass tests and get grades and are not learning or absorbing anything. There are large groups of students being accepted into Harvard and Stanford University who have to take remedial math and English classes again just to catch up with the freshman university students, yet, they had the grades to get into these prestigious schools.”
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.
principal Len Skuggevik did not sign the letter because he said he agrees in principle with “Race to the Top.”
“We welcome the challenge put forth,” he said. “We fully believe that as educators, we should all be held to a higher standard.”
But he said he also agreed that an individual child should never be written off as a number.
“While we fully embrace the idea of greater accountability as a district, and as individuals, we want to ensure that such accountability is meaningful, accurate, and in the best interest of increasing student performance,” he said.