In a rare demonstration of unification, 22 of 24 of the superintendents of Maryland’s school districts are in agreement regarding the “unrealistic timetable” of current reforms and assessments and have signed a response to these reforms. While the superintendents are also in agreement with the benefits of “a more rigorous path through pre-kindergarten to grade twelve for all students,” they are concerned about lacking the resources and support to implement these reforms effectively.
Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post explores all of the aforementioned points in her article. She concludes with the following statements:
- The superintendents said it is “counterintuitive” to require Maryland to administer the long-used MSA test while at the same time promoting Common Core implementation. Lillian Lowery, the Maryland education commissioner, already has turned down requests from educators to drop the MSA from being given this spring.
- They expressed concern about the Common Core standardized tests that are being designed by a consortium of states and are to be administered online. The superintendents said some districts don’t have the technological capability to give thousands of tests on computers.
- They asked for additional time and resources from both the U.S. Education Department and the Maryland Department of Education “to ensure the successful implementation of the PARCC Assessment schedule.”
- They expressed concern about using student standardized test scores as a chief metric to evaluate teachers and principals. They ask for a delay in the requirement that PARCC test scores be used to evaluate educators until “such time that the results provide valid and reliable data.”
The results of these assessments will have high stakes as percentages of teacher and principal effectiveness ratings are dependent upon these assessments. In efforts to improve teacher accountability, MSDE is now requiring public schools to use a teacher evaluation system in which 50% of a teacher’s effectiveness will be qualitative and 50% will be quantitative. MSDE recommends using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for the professional practice section of the evaluation, or the qualitative percentage. A percentage of the quantitative measurements, or the student progress section, is dictated by student achievements on SLOs (student learning outcomes). The remainder of the 50% will involve test results and a “school index,” which involves the shared accountability of every teacher in a school for these “state assessments.”