As a new state assessment for student performance approaches, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said he will be looking to see how federal education officials expect the test results to affect teacher evaluations.
“I think there’s a real question before us: to what extent will [the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers test] be used in teacher performance evaluations?” Starr said Wednesday.
While he will follow the law, Starr said he will also guard the system’s current method for evaluating teachers.
“Our professional growth system is a hill to die on,” he said. “I will not compromise the integrity of it.”
The professional growth system includes six standards for teacher performance, formal evaluations and a program that pairs more experienced teachers with teachers who are new or not performing well, according to an online school system handbook.
Montgomery students will take the Maryland School Assessments for the last time this spring. Next school year, the new PARCC test — which aligns to the Common Core State Standards — will be fully implemented.
Common Core is a controversial set of education standards for English and math that Maryland, along with other states, chose to adopt.
Starr has been vocal on his views regarding standardized testing, including his criticism of how the federal Race to the Top program has pinned teacher evaluations to how well students perform on standardized tests.
Starr said standardized tests play a role Montgomery County regarding teacher support and accountability.
However, he does not want to see the PARCC test results factor too much in teacher evaluations.
Starr said he believes the use of standardized test scores in Race to the Top has blamed and hurt teachers.
“I’ll be concerned if we just continue to go down this path of using standardized tests in inappropriate ways,” he said. “That would be really disappointing to me.”
If the PARCC tests “live up to their promise,” he said, he will be happy to use the results for both accountability and support purposes.
The county school system currently takes student achievement data — including standardized test results — into consideration when looking at how teachers are serving students, he said.
He described the data as a possible “entry point” by which to talk with teachers about their performance and what support they need.
The county school system has argued to maintain its professional growth system in the past, Starr said.
“Because we never signed on to Race to the Top, we made a strong argument to the state that we would not have to use the same model that the state is using,” he said.
Starr said he doesn’t think standardized testing will leave the scene of American public education.
“In a perfect world, would I love to see no standardized tests at all? Sure,” he said. “I don’t know that we’ll ever get there and it’s not necessarily what I’m striving for.”
In an article published in the Winter 2014 edition of Education Next, Starr echoed a similar call he made in 2012 for a temporary moratorium on standardized testing.
Starr said he thinks the MSA test this spring will not measure what students need to know based on Common Core.
He said he would want to see the MSA test canceled this year — as some legislators and others are advocating — though he thinks it is “highly unlikely” given the possible implications for federal funding to the state.
While some have painted him as “anti-standardized testing,” Starr said, he is not.
“We’ve got to have some consistent measures of performance throughout the country and we have to have accountability for adults who have not served their children well,” he said.
According to a Dec. 31 story in The Washington Post, Starr’s opposition to Obama administration school reform programs, particularly a plan to evaluate teachers through standardized tests, might have cost him a job offer. The Post reported that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan lobbied newly elected New York Mayor Bill De Blasio not to hire Starr. The city school system has 1.1 million students and 1,700 schools.