The Peter principal

Soon enough, New York City's youngsters won't be the only ones receiving report cards. Starting September 2007, the Big Apple will track test scores of individual students year-by-year, and give schools A-F grades mainly based on their students' academic progress. The grades will count, too; schools that outperform others in their "peer groups" will receive extra money. On the flip side, administrators in low-performing schools will be held accountable for their performance and, according to Chancellor Joel Klein, "principals whose schools persistently fail could be removed." Of course, principals' unions have already cried foul and called the new proposal "a sword of Damocles" that will alienate current and potential school leaders. One wonders, though, why Klein's ideas would alienate principals rather than empower them. By tracking individual student progress, even the worst-performing schools have a fair chance to turn the tide. And by increasing funds for those schools that do right by their students, Klein has offered principals an opportunity to prove their leadership acumen and see their schools rewarded for it. But school leaders ought to point out that accountability must go hand-in-hand with principal autonomy (currently lacking in New York's schools). One can't well survive without the other.     

"Like Students, City Schools Will Be Graded," by Deborah Kolben, New York Sun, April 12, 2006 (subscription required)

"Principals' Jobs On Line as City Grades Schools," by Elissa Gootman, New York Times, April 12, 2006 (subscription required)

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