Teachers to ‘grade’ principals

Chicago principals may soon be getting report cards from their own teachers.

The Chicago Teachers Union has sent each of its 33,000 members a 28-question survey intended to measure principals’ effectiveness as instructional and organizational leaders. The results will provide critical information for teachers who are considering a transfer and parents who are choosing a school for their child, the union maintains.

“Bad principals create conditions that lead to teacher attrition, student turnover and ultimately low student achievement,” says CTU President Deborah Lynch.

The survey is the third in a series of school reform studies sponsored by the union. Robert Bruno, associate professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, designed all three. The first two surveys covered teacher attrition and parental involvement in reform. Future studies may address topics like school violence, partnership schools, the No Child Left Behind law and teacher evaluation.

“[Lynch] is giving her members a chance to do something they’ve never done before,” says Bruno.

The survey, based on similar surveys used in Milwaukee and Rochester, N. Y., asks teachers to rate their agreement with statements regarding their principal’s leadership qualities, as well as their adherence to union rules.

Respondents are also asked to give their principals letter grades.

Each school that receives a significant number of responses will get a “principal report card” posted on the CTU website. A response rate approaching 50 percent would be required to rule out bias, says Bruno.

A response rate as low as 25 percent might accurately represent a school’s teachers, he says, but in such cases, the responses need to be from a demographically representative sample of teachers.

Bruno says union leaders cut demographic questions to keep the survey short and quick to take. “In this case, CTU is betting on a really high response rate” to offset any bias, says Bruno.

In subsequent research, the union may correlate survey results with teacher attrition, standardized testing and other school performance indicators.

To be counted, returned surveys need to be postmarked no later than March 29. CTU plans to publish results on their website by mid-April.

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