Prince George’s among counties unable to develop new teacher performance guidelines

June 6, 2013

Prince George’s and six other counties in Maryland have been unable to agree with the state department of education on the best way to use student test scores to measure teacher performance in time to meet Friday’s deadline for submitting revised evaluation plans.

Both sides have been working for months on a compromise, but finding a solution has proven complicated. At least some of those districts are now expected to submit plans that still don’t meet state requirements demanding that standardized tests make up 20 percent of the calculation for measuring teacher performance.

Meanwhile, affiliates of the Maryland State Education Association, the union representing 70,000 teachers and other educators, and the state’s 24 superintendents asked the state department of education this week to delay using standardized tests in evaluation systems for the 2013-14 school year.

The request further complicates the heated debate locally and nationally over the best way to hold teachers accountable for improving student learning.

This year, the state rejected evaluation plans from nine school systems because they measured student growth without making the Maryland School Assessment — a standardized test — at least 20 percent of the calculation.

But some school systems say they still cannot commit to the 20 percent requirement because the exams weren’t designed to measure teacher performance, don’t align with new curriculum teachers are using in the classroom or are untested.

Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Washington, Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil and Charles counties are expected to submit revised plans today. Montgomery and Frederick — which also had rejected teacher evaluation plans — are in separate negotiations with the state.

Maryland is well known for having a top-ranked education system, said Cheryl Bost, vice president of the education association.

As a result, “we’re holding on tightly to this local autonomy because of our track record of success,” Bost said.

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery offered a compromise transition plan, gradually increasing the weight of state exams over three years to reach the 20 percent mark by the 2015-16 school year.

This would “mitigate apprehension” and “allows teachers to acquire greater confidence and familiarity” with new, more rigorous tests and curriculum under new “common core” national standards, Lowery wrote in a letter responding to the request for a delay.

But some districts don’t want to lock into a three-year plan that could commit them to further changes.

As a result, those seven counties with rejected plans have crafted varying proposals that either don’t meet the 20 percent requirement or three-year compromise, Bost said.

School systems had to develop new teacher evaluation criteria to include student test scores when Maryland passed the Education Reform Act of 2010. The legislation was designed to help the state win about $250 million in federal grants from Race to the Top, President Obama’s signature education reform initiative. The state legislation was also designed to free school systems from burdensome requirements under No Child Left Behind policies from the George W. Bush administration.

Montgomery and Frederick counties have an additional year to come up with new teacher evaluation plans because they didn’t sign up for Race to the Top.

Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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