"The MSEA 2010 Fall Representative Assembly takes a position of opposition to the proposed Maryland State Board of Education regulations regarding teacher evaluations and certification. These regulations, we believe, are in conflict with the Education Reform Act of 2010 and abrogate the rights of local school systems and associations to bargain evaluation systems which address the needs of their students. MSEA will work with the local associations to inform state Board of Education members, local Board of Education members, parents and other concerned community members of the deleterious effect these regulations would cause for students due to the increased in number of tests to which they would be subjected."
Currently, students take the HSA and MSA tests in seven of their 13 years in public schools in Maryland. These tests are administered over the course of seven days. Most students are engaged in taking the test for a half day on four of those seven days. The proposed regulations would double the amount of state testing to which students are subjected to include every grade level in elementary school. At the secondary level, the regulations would more than quadruple the amount of state testing for students in a traditional seven period day from six in middle school and four in high school to twenty one in middle school and twenty eight in high school. Although the increase in testing envisioned in these regulations is not spelled out specifically, the intent is there. The regulations call for teachers’ evaluations to include a student growth component every year. The regulations make clear that the HSA and MSA test results will be used for the teachers who teach those grades and subject areas. In order for the evaluation system to be fair, equivalent tests will have to be developed and implemented in all grades and subjects not included in the HSA and MSA tests- otherwise the evaluation system for one set of teachers will be vastly different from the rest. Such an evaluation system would be untenable. The increase is even more astounding given the fact that students do not directly benefit from the results of the HSA and MSA tests. The results are received by schools after the year has concluded and the students have moved onto the next grade. Is it conceivable that increasing testing in this way would result in anything other than even more lag time between the administration of the tests and the results being returned to schools and students?
Also at issue is the loss of instructional time that would result from such an increase in testing. Teachers, parents, and students have been alarmed by time already lost to test preparation and administration under the current regime of tests mandated by NCLB. Tests cannot and should not replace active learning time engaged with one’s peers under the guidance of a highly skilled teacher. There is a significant risk of demoralizing those students who these regulations ostensibly seek to benefit the most- poor and highly mobile students. These students already perform below their peers on such tests- an increase in the number of these tests would lead to greater disengagement from school at a time when we are focused on reducing dropout rates and when earning a high school diploma is even more critical to a child’s future.
Beyond the effect on students, many issues regarding the use of standardized tests for teacher evaluation exist. Primary among these is the fact the tests being considered for use in teacher evaluation are not intended to be used nor are they suited for that purpose. A briefing paper issued on August 29, 2010 by the Economic Policy Institute entitled “Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers” and coauthored by nine nationally recognized researchers on education policy states:
The paper goes on to note concerns in numerous areas including statistical misidentification of effective teachers, disincentives for teachers to work with the neediest students, and less teacher collaboration.
Most secondary school teachers, all teachers in kindergarten, first, and second grades and some teachers in grades three through eight do not teach courses in which students are subject to external tests of the type needed to evaluate test score gains. And even in the grades where such gains could, in principle, be measured, tests are not designed to do so. Value-added measurement of growth from one grade to the next should ideally utilize vertically scaled tests, which most states (including large states like New York and California) do not use. In order to be vertically scaled, tests must evaluate content that is measured along a continuum from year to year. Following an NCLB mandate, most states now use tests that measure grade-level standards only and, at the high school level, end-of-course examinations, neither of which are designed to measure such a continuum.In an interesting note, the paper states that:
There is no perfect way to evaluate teachers. However, progress has been made over the last two decades in developing standards-based evaluations of teaching practice, and research has found that the use of such evaluations by some districts has not only provided more useful evidence about teaching practice, but has also been associated with student achievement gains and has helped teachers improve their practice and effectiveness.
The proposed regulations on certification seem designed to bolster the proposed new contract for the Baltimore City Schools, despite the fact that the contract has not been ratified nor have any other school systems in the state even begun to consider such changes to their contracts. These regulations also could endanger the due process rights of MSEA members and, again, abrogate the rights of local school systems and associations to bargain salary schedules that work best for the students of each county.
Such systems exist in the state of Maryland, one such is the comprehensive Teacher Professional Growth System used successfully in Montgomery County for 10 years. Such systems document the actual classroom performance of a teacher and offer structured support to help a teacher improve. If improvement does not occur at a level sufficient to meet the rigorous standards, a teacher faces non-renewal or dismissal. This system has helped thousands of teachers improve their craft in their first year of teaching (as all novice teachers are included in the Peer Assistance and Review program automatically) as well as teachers in their thirtieth year of teaching. This system is accepted, indeed embraced, by the teachers of Montgomery County because it is perceived as fair. Given the questions about every aspect of using standardized test results in the way these regulations propose, would the new teacher evaluation system ever be perceived as fair? It is unlikely.Finally, the proposed regulations on evaluation go well beyond the Education Reform Act of 2010. It is clear that the governor and the legislature debated and rejected the arbitrary percentages that student growth is to count in a teacher’s evaluation that are included in the regulations. The Board of Education should not and cannot supersede the will of the legislature.