Federal report criticizes state on teacher evaluations -- Gazette.Net


Maryland has fallen behind on implementing teacher evaluation pilot programs under Race to the Top, a federal program that hopes to boost student achievement and teacher effectiveness, according to a report being released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement that the “slow pace of Maryland’s progress needs to dramatically accelerate,” and his department emphasized the state’s need to communicate with local systems regarding their pilot programs on teacher and principal evaluations.

As it happens, the report comes out on the same day that Maryland’s Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery is scheduled to meet with local superintendents to update them on requirements under the federal program and other state laws regarding the evaluations, according to David Volrath, who leads the teacher/principal evaluation team for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Local districts were set to receive a response this week to the proposals they submitted to the state regarding their evaluations, Volrath said. Two school districts, Prince George’s and Frederick counties, heard by Thursday that their plan, or part of their plan, were rejected by the state.

The crux of the issue is how much student growth is used to evaluate teachers’ performance. Race to the Top requires districts to base half of their teacher evaluations on student growth measures, 20 percent or more of which must be rooted in state test scores, and both districts argue those percentages should be less.

Prince George’s County found in its pilots that it is simpler to measure student progress than to gauge a teacher’s actual impact on the progress, said Duane Arbogast, the school system’s chief academic officer.

“Growth variance can give you a misread,” he said. “And that is what national data is showing.”

The system asked state officials to consider requiring only 5 percent to be based on school progress on state test scores and 15 percent on other student growth measures, Arbogast said. That suggestion was not approved, he said.

Frederick County’s proposal also was rejected, according to a statement sent Thursday from Superintendent Theresa Alban.

Montgomery and Frederick counties were the only two of Maryland’s 24 school systems that did not sign onto the program. Although the districts opted out, they must comply with the state’s Education Reform Act of 2010 and the state’s waiver for the federal program No Child Left Behind, and they had to submit proposals to the state.

“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.

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

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig said that the school system was reviewing its response from the state, but could not respond further by The Gazette deadline.

Montgomery Superintendent Joshua P. Starr also has pushed back on making any changes to the schools’ Professional Growth System, which evaluates, trains and supports the county’s teachers.