Montgomery, Frederick teacher evaluation systems rejected by state -- Gazette.Net


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Teachers in Montgomery and Frederick counties will be judged on how well their students do on state test scores next year, despite how hard their districts fought against the changes in the last few years.

The Maryland State Department of Education rejected proposals from the school systems this week that laid out how the systems would change its teacher and principal evaluations to meet requirements under new state and federal laws.

This comes as a blow to both school systems, which were the only two systems in Maryland not to sign onto Race to the Top, a federal program intended to raise teacher effectiveness and student performance by giving districts money if they complied to standards.

The districts stated the changes would compromise the integrity of their evaluations, which they believe to be effective.

In turn, they missed out on millions of dollars that would have helped them make the changes; Montgomery stood to receive $12 million, and Frederick $2.2 million.

Both counties, along with seven other school systems, were told this week that because they were not able to meet requirements, they would need to follow the state’s new model for the evaluations.

Doug Prouty, president of Montgomery County Education Association, the county’s teachers union, said Friday he was “gravely disappointed,” when he received the state’s letter.

The letter was vague, Prouty said, and gave no specific reasons for the rejection.

“We are trying to figure out how to move forward,” he said.

Prouty is hoping that there is still a way that Montgomery can tweak its systems, rather than have to default to the state’s model.

Even though the counties did not sign onto Race to the Top, they still have to comply with other requirements under the state’s Education Reform Act of 2010 and under the state’s waiver for the federal No Child Left Behind, both of which lay out measures for teacher and principal evaluations.

David Volrath, who leads the teacher/principal evaluation team for the state, said districts needed to show that they are aligned with other new models across the state and the nation — most of which are coming in with about 20 percent based on test scores, Volrath said.

“If they won’t tie the performance of the teacher back to the performance of the kids, it won’t satisfy requirements of the act,” Volrath said.

The state’s model, created this year and still in testing phases, bases 50 percent of a teacher’s performance on their students’ growth. Of that, teachers who teach subjects covered on state tests will have 20 percent or more based solely on their students’ scores on the tests from one year to the next.

Montgomery Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has pushed back on making any changes to its Professional Growth System, stating that changes would compromise the integrity of what he calls a proven and nationally recognized formula for student success.

The system’s proposal explained how data on student growth would be included within teachers’ evaluations, but did not assign a percentage to the measure.

Starr said in an interview last week that he believed the school system was in compliance, and was hoping that the school system did not have to make any changes.

“I think [the Professional Growth System] is the bedrock of our work — the foundation of our work in so many ways,” Starr said.

Frederick’s model tied 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to student growth measures, said Stephen Hess, a school system director.

Hess, who retired Thursday, said he thinks the state should be basing their model on successful systems such as Frederick, rather than imposing changes.

Frederick ranked highest among school systems in the state this year under the state’s new accountability system that looks at student growth on test scores, and has consistently ranked in the top for years, Hess said.

“If the purpose of doing this is not to promote student achievement, I fail to understand why we are doing this,” he said.

jbondeson@gazette.net