Maryland to release Race to the Top application

School systems have until April 23 to approve the reforms

April 12, 2010|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland will release the draft of its application for federal Race to the Top education funds today, hoping that its ideas are bold enough to win up to $250 million for school reforms.

Most of the proposals have been kept secret, but in a conference call Monday, a committee of education leaders was told that the application would include the creation of a framework for evaluating teachers. The state is considering four categories to evaluate each teacher: ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective.

For the first time, teachers would be evaluated in part on test score data, although in legislation passed late Monday by the General Assembly, the weight of that data is not specifically defined. Lawmakers said only that teachers must show "significant growth" in student progress. In addition, legislators agreed to a compromise in which local school boards and teachers unions can together develop the evaluation system. If the parties cannot agree, the local school board would adopt one drafted by the state. Some critics believe that compromise could weaken the reforms.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said local school boards, superintendents and unions will have until April 23 to decide whether to support the application, which is due to the U.S. Department of Education in early June. The state is applying for the funds in the second round.

Some local union leaders have suggested they will not sign the application, and Montgomery County, the largest school district in the state, has said it probably will not sign it.

The two states that were awarded money in the first round, Tennessee and Delaware, had gotten support from all of their local districts.

Education advocates, particularly those in Baltimore City and Prince George's County, which stand to gain the most from the federal funds, have been waiting to see whether the Maryland proposal would go far enough in supporting a progressive education agenda despite strong teacher union opposition.

The state has convened principals and teachers to get their opinions on the evaluation process.

Grasmick said Monday that the theme of the application will be to "eliminate the achievement gap and move all groups forward." She asked the executive committee that is overseeing the Race to the Top application to be "looking at our strategies and are they bold enough and do they move our reform efforts forward in Maryland?"

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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