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KLEIN FOCUSES ON PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP: New York City Schools Chancellor Hands Out Grades to City Principals

In a bold move to send a wake-up call to principals throughout New York City, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein plans to issue report cards to all of the city’s 1,100 principals and to fire at least 50 of them. The report cards for elementary and middle school principals (high school principals will be rated at a later date) include a letter grade for 11 categories, including standardized math and reading test scores, suspension rates, and attendance rates. In addition, Klein plans to institute a new plan to lure top principals to low-performing schools and bring in a former business executive to train them.

Of the 1,100 principals, at least 50 are said to have received failing marks-a number in line with Klein’s announcement to remove 50 poorly performing principals at the end of the school year. Since 1997, the schools chancellor had the power to remove principals with “persistent education failure,” but no chancellor has ever exercised that right. Meanwhile, school principals with strong performance records will receive up to a $75,000 bonus if they agree to work in a failing school for three years. According to The New York Times, Klein’s plan is meant to “infuse the ranks of New York’s principals with new blood, put the most experienced administrators where they are most needed, and weed out those who preside over schools plagued by low test scores, poor discipline, and other problems.”

Klein is also bringing in John F. Welch Jr., the executive who turned around General Electric, to work closely with Robert E. Knowling Jr., another former corporate executive, whom Klein has hired to run a new principal-training program. The program, called the Leadership Academy, is modeled on the management-training program that Welch created for General Electric.

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