GBC’s Fry: Finding common ground in evaluating educators

Don Fry Commentary on WYPR

Maryland has begun a two-year process to develop a system where at least 50 percent of public school teachers’ and principals’ job evaluations will be based on student performance.

In June, a state Council for Education Effectiveness, appointed by Governor O’Malley, issued recommendations for implementing new education performance standards – something the state agreed to do in order to gain federal Race to the Top funding.

Local school systems would have flexibility to develop their own measures to gauge student progress, but a default state evaluation process would be implemented if local school boards and educators can’t agree on their own guidelines. This fall seven school systems in Maryland, including Baltimore City and Baltimore County, will begin a two-year process of testing and refining the council’s recommendations.

One big challenge remains. Most teacher advocates still don’t like these recommendations. During the next two years, teachers must work with administrators to overcome an inherent institutional wariness teachers have for school bureaucracies and craft a reasonable, results-oriented evaluation process.

It’s in the best interests of students, parents, future employers of the students, and state taxpayers for teachers and administrators to find common ground.

This brings me to one glaring education outcome that needs to change.

According to state data, more than half of Maryland’s high school graduates currently need to take remedial courses in math or English when they get to college – often only months after they received their high school diplomas.

This is as basic a measurement of education effectiveness as it gets. A highly-ranked statewide education system that produces these levels of high school graduates who simply don’t know enough about core academic subjects raises broad legitimate questions about the fundamental nature of today’s education environment.

Whatever educator evaluation system the state develops, it must reverse this unacceptable trend.

Maryland’s education system must produce college-ready and workforce-ready graduates.

Isn’t that the ultimate student performance outcome that we are in search of?

For the Regional Business Report, this is Don Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, for 88.1 WYPR, your NPR news station.

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