The New York Times reports today on Montgomery County (MD) Schools’ highly regarded teacher evaluation system. The district’s Peer Assistance and Review program is not acceptable under Obama’s “Race to the Top” plan, because it does not make student test scores the key factor in teacher evaluation.
The program uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring doesn’t work, the PAR panel — made up of eight teachers and eight principals — can vote to fire the teacher. And PAR has resulted in 500 teachers leaving their jobs over the past 11 years.
Despite a successful professional development approach to teacher evaluation as well as evidence of student learning success in the district, the program will be ditched for a new statewide scheme, which is not yet developed, but meets the Obama’s demand that all aspects of schools be marketized.
Unfortunately, federal dollars from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program are not going where Dr. Weast [Montgomery County Superintendent] and the PAR program need to go. Montgomery County schools were entitled to $12 million from Race to the Top, but Dr. Weast said he would not take the money because the grant required districts to include students’ state test results as a measure of teacher quality. “We don’t believe the tests are reliable,” he said. “You don’t want to turn your system into a test factory.”
Race to the Top aims to spur student growth by improving teacher quality, which is exactly what Montgomery County is doing. Sad to say, the district is getting the right results the wrong way [i.e., not the neoliberal way, linking test scores to teacher evaluation to federal bribes].
It does not seem to matter that 84 percent of Montgomery County students go on to college and that 63 percent earn degrees there — the very variables that President Obama has said should be the true measure of academic success. It does not seem to matter that 2.5 percent of all black children in America who pass an Advanced Placement test live in Montgomery County, more than five times its share of the nation’s black population.