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June 3, 2010

New evaluation regulations proposed

by Philipa Friedman, Print Managing News Editor
The Maryland State Board of Education proposed regulations in April which would require that student performance account for 50 percent of teacher evaluations for all counties in the state of Maryland according to Maryland State Board of Education spokesperson William Reinhard.

The Board will work with county officials and principals over the next two years in order to implement this program, said Reinhard. The goal of the program, he said, is to hold teachers more accountable for student achievement. "It's time for some learning to weigh into how teachers are evaluated," he said. The regulations would take into account the growth in student achievement from the beginning of the school year to the end, regardless of the level of classes the students are taking, he said.

According to Reinhard, student growth would be judged based on student success in multiple areas. Standardized test scores would account for a sizable portion of the evaluation of student progress, he said, but the Board also proposed other criteria, including the presentation of student portfolios and, in some cases, personal evaluations of students by administrators. According to Montgomery County Education Association President Doug Prouty, 30 percent of the one-half figure would be based upon a standardized test, likely the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) and the High School Assessment (HSA). The other portion, he said, would likely be left up to local school systems, but there is a chance that the additional 20 percent would also reflect performance on standardized test scores.

On April 12, the Maryland legislature ratified a bill stating that no one criterion can account for more than 35 percent of teacher evaluations. Reinhard, however, denied that the new regulations proposed by the State Board of Education would violate that bill, saying that no one test would account for all 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation. Under this proposed statewide system, student growth and progress would be considered a broader category of criteria for which teachers would be held accountable and one test or portfolio would count for a single criterion within that category. According to Reinhard, both the new regulations and the previously ratified bill work toward the same purpose of increasing accountability of teachers for student performance, but the new regulation places even more emphasis on the student progress aspect.

Representatives of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) teachers' union generally oppose the new regulations; Prouty said that the system for evaluation based on student performance would not be adequate to accurately determine the skill level of a teacher. Social Studies teacher Marc Grossman agreed. "Standardized tests are a limited measurement of what a student knows," he said. The new system, he said, would place too great an emphasis on standardized testing, which could be a biased or inaccurate assessment of student growth and progress to begin with, particularly considering extraneous socioeconomic factors. According to Prouty, a teacher evaluation system had existed in Montgomery County for a decade prior to the April 12 change. Under this system, a teacher was evaluated based on six pre-determined criteria, one of which was student performance. Currently, the county is pushing to be allowed to keep that system in place, arguing that it meets the criterion that student performance must be a "significant portion" of teacher evaluation. "We hope the superintendent will agree that the system we have in place is more rigorous and much more reflective of the work that students and teachers do," said Prouty. "We, in Montgomery County, have agreed that the system we have in place right now already meets the state law."

According to Prouty, the new regulations are another attempt by the state to qualify for additional federal funding. "The state wants to do this partially in order to bolster the Race to the Top submission," he said, which is why he and other Montgomery County officials have been balking at implementing yet more regulations on teacher evaluations.

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