Q&A with D.C. area superintendents

September 22, 2013

If you could make one change in your school system this year — no matter how expensive or dramatic — what would it be?

JOSHUA P. STARR, Montgomery County: “I would make sure our students come to school each day feeling hopeful about themselves, their education and their future. Many of our students are dealing with very difficult circumstances each day. If our schools can work with their parents and the community to keep these students engaged and feeling good about their education, the academic results will come. I wish this was more of a focus nationwide than making sure our students follow the rules and are ready for standardized tests.”

EDGAR B. HATRICK III, Loudoun County: “I would increase the financial resources available to hire and retain excellent employees. This would require a rise in taxes, but the investment in the future is worth it. After I retire from [Loudoun County Public Schools] next June, I will continue to advocate for better funding of public education at all levels. Public schools are being asked to do more and more with less and less. That formula does not work, and our children suffer for the lack of investment.”

KEVIN M. MAXWELL, Prince George’s County: “I would make our employee compensation package more competitive so we can attract outstanding teachers to our district and retain them over the long run.”

PATRICK K. MURPHY, Arlington County: “That all of us who work in public education — from the classroom to the board room — fully realize the influence we have in our students’ lives and exercise that influence so that all kids can reach their full potential.”

KAREN GARZA, Fairfax County: “I believe very strongly that having high-quality, engaged teachers and educational leaders throughout our system is the most essential factor for creating and sustaining high levels of success for our students. Thus, it is important that we create conditions where our employees feel valued and where we are able to hire and retain the very best educators. It is a priority of the [Fairfax County] School Board and administration to increase compensation for our employees. This will be challenging to accomplish, given the current financial forecast for the coming years. We are committed to finding solutions to these challenges, so that we are able to continue to retain the best teachers in the state.”

Should teachers be evaluated on the scores that students receive on standardized tests? (Answers are excerpts of longer responses.)

HATRICK: “Depending on a single test score to measure a student’s progress is ill-advised, and using that same single test score to try to measure teacher success is a formula for disaster.”

MURPHY: “Recognizing the complexities of the teaching and learning process, it’s imprudent to boil it down to only one measure and one moment in time.”

STARR: “I think it is fair to use outcomes, but I am concerned about building a teacher evaluation system around STATE standardized tests — especially now that the tests aren’t aligned to what we’re doing in the classroom.”

MAXWELL: “I think it’s fair as long as it remains just one piece of the puzzle — there are many ways to evaluate teacher success, and student achievement on standardized tests is just one of them.”

GARZA: “The state of Virginia agreed to make student academic progress count for 40 percent of its new teacher evaluations in order to receive a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Law.”

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