Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Principal of the Thing

The Bloomberg administration has committed to a new effort that would involve taking more control in the selection and evaluation of public school principals in New York City. Considering the amount of power principals have when it comes to budgeting expenses, education methods and hiring teachers, Chancellor Joel Klein has noted that a good principal is the key to improving the poor elements of certain schools.
Starting this fall, 160 new positions as public school principals are expected to open up. Instead of just handing the jobs over to assistant principals, the Department of Education has vowed to gather a group of qualified individuals (who have been deemed so as a result of résumés, personal evaluations and essays demonstrating their abilities) from which some will be selected as principals by district superintendents, with the help of parents and teachers.
This new wave of principals will also be subject to detailed, twice-yearly ratings on a scale of 2 to 4 (as opposed to the old unsatisfactory/satisfactory ratings), which will partially determine whether or not the principal keeps his job and will also be on his record if he decides to work at another school.
While these new means of picking and evaluating NYC public school principals seem to be perfectly reasonable, if not an improvement, to me, Ernest A. Logan, president of the principals' and assistant principals' union, seems to think there is nothing wrong with the current methods. To him, this idea of "centralized control" seems to be wishful thinking on the part of the Department of Education; something that is meant to improve schools but will not accomplish that goal. I must say that I disagree, Mr. Logan. In a city where public school students frequently have no access to vital components of education, such as textbooks, are crammed into classrooms so tightly packed with other students that they are forced to sit on shelfs or radiators instead of desks, and are forced to make do with boring, incompetent or inexperienced teachers, shouldn't we at least give this plan a try?

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