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Montgomery County educators push for delay of new teacher evaluation system

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Local,Maryland,Education,Andy Brownfield,Montgomery County

ANNAPOLIS -- Montgomery County educators urged a Maryland Senate panel on Wednesday to approve a measure that would delay the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system, unless Maryland first adopted a new standardized test.

The bill would forbid the State Board of Education from implementing its Educator Evaluation System in the 2013-2014 school year unless the state moved away from the current Maryland School Assessment, or MSA, standardized test and to a new one that aligned with more rigorous national Common Core standards.

"It makes no sense to use obsolete tests that are going away in two years to measure our teachers' effectiveness," said Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr. "MSAs were not designed to measure teacher growth."

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Starr argued that delaying the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system would give schools more time to test the program and make tweaks while the shift was made nationally to the Common Core curriculum.

The state board rejected Montgomery County's own evaluation system.

Montgomery County in particular has resisted federal mandates that teacher evaluations rely more heavily on students' performance on standardized tests. Meanwhile, D.C. schools -- where collaboration with the school community and schoolwide testing trends make up 15?percent of a teacher's evaluation -- have embraced the standard.

Delaying the evaluation system could jeopardize $37 million in federal Race to the Top money. Maryland was given $250 million after overhauling its teacher and principal evaluation system in 2010, though Montgomery and Frederick counties opted out of Race to the Top.

The federal funding has led the State Board of Education to oppose allowing districts to delay implementing the new evaluation system.

Starr and senators on the state's Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee suggested the state board go to the U.S. Department of Education and ask for permission to delay implementation of the evaluation system, saying other states have been granted such waivers.

However, David Volrath, state board project lead for teacher and principal evaluation, said there's no guarantee Maryland would be given that permission.

"With $37 million in funding on the line and performance credibility of our districts in question, we need better assurances from those in power," he said.

Volrath said delaying the new system would discredit the schools that were performing well in the testing of the new system.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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