Here is a new message to the public from Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr about forced changes to the district’s nationally known teacher/principal evaluation system.

Moco’s teacher evaluation system has been seen as a model because it has been successful in removing ineffective teachers without the use of standardized test scores and it is led by teachers.

The school system is being forced to change it because of a state law that was part of the state’s effort to win federal Race to the Top money from the Obama administration, which required certain reforms to be implemented to get the funds. One of the big changes is using standardized test scores in teacher evaluation, a method opposed by assessment experts who say it is unreliable and invalid. Starr, and his predecessor Jerry Weast, did not want to be part of Race to the Top but the state is requiring changes anyway.

In his message, Starr says he will not compromise the integrity of the evaluation processes. Here’s what Starr sent out:

I hope that you had a restful winter break and the New Year is off to a good start. I wanted to update you on the status of our Professional Growth System (PGS) and its alignment to changes in state law under the Race to the Top program.


In response to the Education Reform Act of 2010, approved by the Maryland General Assembly, and the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), approved by the Maryland State Board of Education, Montgomery County Public Schools, and the other 23 Maryland school systems, were required to submit a Teacher and Principal Evaluation (TPE) plan to the state superintendent of schools on December 26, 2012. The superintendent of schools, on behalf of the Montgomery County Board of Education, the Montgomery County Education Association, and the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, collaborated to revise and align the Professional Growth Systems for teachers and principals with the new statutory and regulatory requirements and submitted the plan to Dr. Lillian L. Lowery, state superintendent of schools, on December 21, 2012, for her consideration and approval.


Maintaining the integrity of our PGSs is critical. We cannot agree to any changes that would in any way jeopardize these systems. We have emphasized in previous communications to the state superintendent that our Teachers’ PGS is nationally recognized as a model because of its comprehensive assessment of teacher performance. We believe our exceptional student results are due in large part to the high quality of our professional workforce. We are able to maintain this top caliber workforce because of PGSs we have in place, which place emphasis on helping our employees improve their craft.


The new state regulations indicate that TPE performance evaluation criteria must:


*be based on those measures mutually agreed to by the Local Education Agency and the exclusive employee representative;
*yield, at a minimum, an evaluation of effective, highly effective, or ineffective;
*address professional practice for teachers to include planning, preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibility;
*address professional practice for principals to include the eight outcomes in the Maryland Instructional Leadership Framework; and
*measure student growth, which for teachers and principals:
– should be a significant factor in the evaluation;
– should be based on multiple measures; and
– may not be based solely on an existing or newly created examination or assessment.


Montgomery County Public Schools did not agree to participate in the Race to the Top application that the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) submitted to the United States Department of Education; therefore, we are not required to submit an evaluation plan that has a 50-50 split between professional practice and student growth measures for both teacher and principal evaluations. We are required to submit a plan in which student growth is a “significant component” in the evaluation. Another regulatory requirement is that teachers be evaluated each year for student growth measures and every three years for professional practice. The requirements for the TPE plan focus on classroom teacher and principal evaluations and not other certificated educators, which is why the terms teacher and principal are used throughout the submission to the state.


In response to the requirement to include student growth measures, we have committed to being more consistent in our use of data on student growth as a significant component of the evaluation systems and one of multiple measures. MSDE has defined student growth to mean “student progress assessed by multiple measures and from a clearly articulated baseline to one or more points in time.”


In alignment with these requirements, we have identified how student and school progress will be delineated and utilized in the evaluation of teachers and principals. We have outlined how the student and school measures will be used as a significant component of the evaluation.


In response to the requirement of a three-tiered rating system, we have agreed to modify the Teachers’ PGS by proposing a four-tiered system including an “emerging category” as well as the “lead teacher” designation that will be attained through an application and selection process within the Career Lattice program. For principals, we have agreed to modify the current system and create a “highly effective” rating.


In response to the requirement of a three-year evaluation cycle, we have agreed to study next year how to modify the current Teachers’ PGS to address this requirement. We also have agreed to modify the principals’ evaluation system and limit the number of years between evaluations to no more than three.


We believe that the changes we have proposed will allow us to maintain the integrity of our PGSs. We also believe that we have met the statutory and regulatory requirements and are prepared to begin implementation for the 2013–2014 school year. A great deal of work will be required to incorporate student growth measures into our existing systems and to complete the development work. In addition, we will have to develop and implement a training plan. We must begin this work now. Therefore, it is imperative that the state superintendent of schools approves our plan as soon as possible.


It is important for everyone to understand that we have done what we believe we need to do to comply with the new requirements while maintaining the integrity of our PGSs. We have to work collaboratively to implement these changes to our systems while never losing sight of the complexity of our work to improve teaching and learning for every student every day.