Read the original letter in the New York Times here.
Your article describing the extra work for principals in New York City as a result of the new teacher evaluation system was revealing (“New Evaluation System for City’s Schoolteachers Has a Bumpy Start,” news article, Dec. 23).
It let us know that until now principals typically spent their days in the office dealing with paperwork, student misbehavior and parents’ concerns. Not a word about visiting classrooms regularly to get familiar with the curriculum, teaching styles and students. As a result, principals now need “checklists of good teaching” and “talent coaches” to guide them through a classroom observation. Most observations will be only 15 minutes in length, hardly enough time to grasp what a teacher is teaching and whether or not students understand it.
In good schools principals are in and out of classrooms every day, sometimes watching a whole lesson, other times just glimpsing how teachers and students interact. They also meet with teachers regularly to find out what they need, to give support and to build trust.
Until principals get to know the inner workings of their schools and the central administrators let them do their jobs, the piles of teacher evaluations produced will be meaningless.
Portland, Ore., Dec. 24, 2013
The writer was an elementary and middle school principal for 25 years and now supervises student teachers for Portland State University.