Maryland to counties: increase weight of state standardized test in teacher evals

February 11, 2013

The Maryland State Department of Education has told nine counties to increase the use of standardized tests in its teacher and principal evaluation models after rejecting plans the school systems submitted for approval.

The state has specifically told the counties to make scores from the Maryland School Assessment at least 20 percent of the measure schools use to calculate how well students are learning as a variable judging educator performance.

The department earlier this month rejected teacher evaluation proposals from Montgomery, Frederick and seven other counties, but the school systems didn’t receive official specifics on why until late Friday afternoon.

All 24 counties in Maryland had to submit new models for judging teacher performance in response to new state law and federal education reforms, including President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative.

Montgomery County Schools officials confirmed receiving details from the state Friday, but it is reviewing the information before making further comment, spokesman Dana Tofig said.

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has been vocally opposed to relying too heavily on standardized tests to measure teacher performance.

“I don’t understand why we would use a test that is going away in a couple of years as a significantly determining factor in a teacher’s performance,” Starr said after the state first rejected Montgomery’s proposed evaluation plan.

The Maryland School Assessment will soon be replaced with new, more rigorous exams to reflect more challenging Common Core education standards that 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted.

State officials said they’re willing to work with the local school systems to help modify their teacher evaluation proposals.

“My team and I are fully prepared to make visits to your district to provide clarification and to assist you in reaching approved status,” Dave Volrath, teacher and principal evaluation lead for the department, told school systems with rejected plans.

School districts with rejected teacher evaluation plans have until May 15 to submit revisions.

Officials from Montgomery and Frederick counties have disagreed with several state and federal education reforms, including using of standardized test scores to measure teacher performance. Both counties rejected money from Race to the Top, which means they had to comply with state law that requires student learning be a “significant” factor in a teacher’s rating. Counties that took Race to the Top money have to make student learning 50 percent of the measure of teacher performance.

Current Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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