Central Office Survey Shows Principals Feel Empowered

Thursday, June 9, 2011
Christopher Hoffman
New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) principals and assistant principals give high grades to the district’s new teacher evaluation system, feel increasingly empowered and say the system’s leadership is effective and responsive, this year’s Central Office Survey shows.
NHPS polls principals and assistant principals every year asking them to rate the performance of the district’s Central Office. The survey is part of NHPS’ School Change reforms.
School Change seeks to make New Haven’s schools a national model by reducing the achievement gap, halving the dropout rate and assuring all students are academically and financially prepared to attend college.
“Every year, we take an honest look in the mirror and make changes based on what we see,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo said. “For School Change to succeed, we need input from building administrators. This information tells what we are doing right – and what needs to improve. We will use this data to address our weaknesses and build on our strengths.
“This year’s survey shows School Change is making significant headway. The district is successfully empowering building leaders, a major goal of School Change, which says that every school is different and needs its own solutions. Administrators are embracing our new teacher evaluation system, a key element in our effort to have the best teachers in America. Principals and assistant principals say the district provides effective and responsive leadership.”
The district’s principals and assistant principals were asked to complete the survey’s 63 questions in April, with 74 submitting answers. The survey was anonymous.
Other findings of the survey include: the district is holding schools accountable for academic performance; goals are communicated clearly; data use is timely and effective; and special education and English language learner instruction are improving.
Director of Special Education Typhanie Jackson said, “This survey confirms that our effort to improve special education is working. Effective special education is an ethical as well as legal imperative. All have a right to learn. The district is working closely with administrators and teachers to upgrade special education services and instruction and better integrate them into the broader curriculum. I’m pleased to see that our work is bearing fruit.”
Department of English Language Learners Programs Supervisor Pedro Mendia-Landa said, “More than 10 percent of New Haven students are English Language learners. The district has a moral as well as legal responsibility to assure its ELL programs are effective. Our success as a city and a nation depends on ELL students’ success. I am happy that the principals see improvement in the district’s ELL effort. We will continue building on these successes.”
Highlights of the survey include:
·         74 percent agreed that the teacher evaluation system promotes student achievement, 70 percent that it identifies concrete steps to remedy poor performance and 68 percent were satisfied with the process;
·         The percentage of principals and assistant principals satisfied with the new teacher evaluation process jumped 46 percent compared to last year;
·         92 percent said that the district does an exemplary or satisfactory job of holding schools accountable for student performance, an increase of 15 percent over last year;
·         97 percent said the district does an exemplary or satisfactory job of communicating its vision and goal, up from 91 percent last year;
·          81 percent gave Central Office an exemplary or satisfactory rating for providing autonomy commensurate with performance, and 76 percent gave the same marks for providing guidance on self-evaluation and improvement plans. Those numbers are up 21 and 26 percent respectively compared to last year;
·         89 percent said Central Office is exemplary or satisfactory at providing timely and useful analysis of student assessments and other student data, and 76 percent said interim assessments did an exemplary or satisfactory job of helping determine a student’s learning needs and guiding instruction. Those questions were not asked last year.
The survey also found that principals and assistant principals believe that the district provides strong teacher training. The district is exemplary or satisfactory at providing appropriate professional development opportunities for new teachers, according to 84 percent, an increase of 8 percent over last year. Asked the same question about experienced teachers, 75 percent of building administrators gave the district an exemplary or a satisfactory, an 11 percent gain over 2010.
Building administrators saw a small improvement in the district’s helping parents engage in their child’s education and school, with 61 percent giving the district an exemplary or satisfactory. Increasing parental involvement is a major goal of School Change and remains a top district priority.
The survey also identified areas needing improvement. A total of 45 percent of principals and assistant principals say the district needs to have clearer discipline policies and procedures and to develop better behavior intervention plans.
Social services for students is another concern, with 50 percent of building leaders saying the district needs to do a better job of offering support and training in accessing outside social services. The district is seeking to address those needs through Boost!, a partnership with the United Way of Greater New Haven.
Principals and assistant principals think the district needs to do more for remedial and high- achieving students. A total of 42 percent say programs for high achievers need improvement and 40 percent say the same about remedial programs.
The survey effectively identifies Central Office’s strengths and weaknesses. The district’s leadership will focus on those areas needing improvement, including discipline policies, access to social services and remedial and gifted student instruction.
 Overall, building administrators rate Central Office’s performance as exemplary or satisfactory in most areas, according to the survey. The survey also shows significant success and progress in implementing School Change reforms.
The district will continue its high performance in its areas of strength.