Governor Can Move Education Reforms Forward
Stronger Teacher Evaluation System Key To Higher Standards
This year, state legislators approved a stronger teacher evaluation system which considers "student growth," i.e.., the extent to which a teacher can show that student achievement improved over the course of a year. In support of this proposal, Advocates for Children and Youth conducted a study showing that 0 percent of tenured teachers in Maryland were fired for incompetency. This new system was incorporated into the State's proposal for a $250-million federal Race to the Top grant; the State won the grant, and the teacher evaluation proposal was a significant factor.
The Governor strongly supported the teacher evaluation legislation and the Race to the Top proposal. During his recent successful campaign for re-election, he said that he was in a better position than challenger Bob Ehrlich to implement these education reforms because he could more effectively work with the teachers unions.
At the urging of the unions, a legislative committee recently blocked the regulations needed to move the teacher evaluation system forward, claiming that the law did not allow student growth to make up 50 percent of the evaluation. The teachers unions strongly opposed the regulations, which were put forward by the Maryland State Board of Education.
Under state law, the Governor now gets to decide whether the State Board can move forward with the regulations. He does not need to have any agreement from the teachers unions to do so. He should allow the regulations to take effect based on his prior support for the law and the Race to the Top proposal and the risk that the federal government might rescind its grant.
The editorial boards of The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post issued editorials strongly advocating that the Governor let the regulations take effect.
The exact method by which student growth will be calculated is complex and will undoubtedly make sure that teachers are not held accountable for factors that are beyond the control of a teacher. The details are still being worked out, and the various stakeholders will have input.
To enable students to achieve higher academic standards, teacher effectiveness must increase, and more effective teachers are needed in challenging schools and with struggling students. As such, it is essential to have rewards, sanctions and teacher supports that flow from a meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness.