Developing teacher evaluation system takes time

May 27, 2011

While The Sun's recent editorial on Maryland's participation in Race to the Top ("No more time to lose," May 22) is well meant, it is misguided on a number of points.

I share The Sun's eagerness to see a system in place that strengthens education in our state, but we must not tumble headlong through a looking glass of policies designed with good intentions but without the consensus, input from local school systems, and grounding in research required to position them for success.

Along with state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, I co-chair the Council for Educator Effectiveness, which is charged with a number of responsibilities, including developing a model evaluation system. We must keep in mind that we're embarking down an ambitious, innovative course that will directly impact many people — including Maryland's more than 800,000 school children and over 60,000 teachers and administrators.

It will take time to design this well. High standards and high achievement must drive us, not meeting arbitrary percentages or deadlines. Not taking the time and not doing it right would jeopardize the progress and accolades that Maryland's schools have enjoyed.

In addition to the council, school systems across the state have been working hard on achieving high standards for years. In fact, as soon as the Education Reform Act of 2010 — which mandated that student growth be included as a "significant factor" in evaluations — was signed into law, many local schools systems, in collaboration with their teachers unions, began work on retooling their systems to meet the requirements.

Indeed, many counties already have proven track records of research-based, collaboratively developed evaluation systems that have enhanced both student performance and teacher effectiveness. Statewide, we can boast of the top-ranked schools in the country for three years in a row and two of the last five national teachers of the year. We have gotten this far by pursuing innovation in a collaborative, judicious manner, rather than a pursuit stymied by unneeded recklessness or delay.

Finally, The Sun's assertion that Maryland is not immediately implementing these new procedures is pure sensationalism apparently intended to kick up dust where none exists. There is no implementation deadline, nor does there exist a threat of rescinding the money if an arbitrary deadline is not met. Ms. Grasmick, myself, and the members of the council are committed to doing this right, not doing this recklessly. Our schools and children deserve no less.

Betty Weller, Annapolis

The writer is vice president of the Maryland State Education Association.

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