Chicago principals under scrutiny | WBEZ
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Chicago principals under new scrutiny

Chicago Public Schools announced its new plan for evaluating principals yesterday. But they didn’t give a lot of information to the people it would affect. 

“It would’ve been nice to know, ‘Well, we’re starting on it. Could you give us a few hours of your time? Could you sit in on it?’” said Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Associaition. “I would love to have done that.”

Berry says her organization had a meeting with CPS on Monday, but only got about half way through the details of the new system before time ran out.

CPS officials provided an overview of the new plan to reporters Thursday, but did not provide details or specifics of the new evaluation rubric.

According to the district's Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler, half of a principal’s evaluation would be based on things like attendance, graduation rates and how much students improve on standardized tests.  Berry provided a breakdown for elementary school principals as follows: 50 percent based on observation, 10 percent based on attendance and misconduct rates, 15 percent on closing the achievement gap, 5 percent based on the results of the 8th grade EXPLORE exam, 20 percent based on student growth on the NWEA assessment.  Berry did not have a breakdown for high schools.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the new system would be rolled out this spring, with principals’ first formal observations starting February 15. Ratings will be calculated by the end of June. Byrd-Bennett said the district wants to have 100 percent "high-quality" principals by the 2014-15 school year, but did not say what rating level would be considered "high-quality."

Byrd Bennett also said there is not a plan in place for how the district might remove struggling principals.

“The direction is not about failure, it’s about support,” Byrd-Bennett said. “Obviously, there are timelines on everybody in terms of support, but we haven’t determined, you know, ‘at the end of 18 months, if you haven’t shown demonstrable growth that we would not continue to think about supports.’”

But technically, the state law that prompted new principal and teacher evaluations says that two consecutive “unsatisfactory” ratings means a principal or teacher could lose their license and therefore not be able to work in schools across Illinois.

Berry said that’s why CPS needs to be more careful with the implementation of the new evaluations. She said she still has questions about whether evaluators have been trained, whether the evaluations will be consistent across the city and whether the metrics being used are fair. 

“There’s no taking a look to see how it works, to get the kinks out,” Berry said. “It’s CPS’s usual ‘build-the-plane-while-I’m-flying-it’ sort of mentality.”

The new evaluation system also includes a brand new metric never used before by the district—an “on-track” rate for any student in grades 3 through 12. Previously, the district has kept track of a “Freshman On-Track” rate, developed by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. That rate is based on attendance and grades in 9th grade and has been proven to correlate with high school completion.

When pressed for more details, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said that metric is not ready for “roll out” yet, but is being actively used for evaluation purposes. CPS communications department would also not release a copy of the evaluation rubric or a sample because it is not finalized.

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