Now it’s the principals’ fault

September 30, 2013
Kaya Henderson (Marvin Joseph - WASHINGTON POST)
Kaya Henderson (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

For years now, it has been the teachers in D.C. public schools who have been labeled effective or not based on an evaluation system that includes student standardized test scores as a key measure. Now it’s the principals’ turn — and things aren’t looking so good.

On newly released evaluations, half of the principals in the District’s traditional public schools were deemed “developing,” one rung above “ineffective,” according to this report by my colleague Emma Brown. Fourteen of the city’s 120 principals, more than 11 percent, were rated “highly effective” and were eligible for bonuses of up to $30,000. About one-third were rated “effective,” and the 8 percent who lost their jobs this past spring were rated “ineffective.”

Remember that most principals in D.C. schools were selected by either the current chancellor, Kaya Henderson,  or her predecessor, Michelle Rhee. If so many are really merely “developing,” what does that say about their hiring prowess?

Brown’s story says:

The proportion of principals scoring below “effective” stands in striking contrast to those who scored below “effective” among the system’s 4,000 teachers. In the 2011-12 school year, two-thirds of teachers were rated “effective” and one-quarter were highly effective. School system officials have not released teacher ratings for the 2012-13 school year.

Jason Karmas, the school system’s chief of human capital (that’s really his title), told Brown:

I don’t think it’s surprising that we see higher ratings for teachers. We’ve invested a ton of resources, energy and money into developing folks and getting the right folks and holding onto the great folks that we have.

Can we take from those comments that the teachers are no longer at fault for low academic performance?

Now do we blame the principals?

Incidentally,  Brown wrote in this story that the “historic” citywide results on the most recent annual math and reading standardized test scores, known as the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System, were a consequence of a secret decision about how to score the exams.  Instead of toughening the grading scheme to go along with tougher tests, officials in the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, which is separate from the school system, kept the old grading scheme, even though teachers had devised a new rubric. The decision to keep the old grading system was made after the  test results came in.

It’s no wonder many principals are unhappy with their evaluations.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | September 30, 2013