Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, called PAR “an excellent system for professional development.” Senior staff members from the United States Department of Education have visited here to study the program, and Montgomery County officials have gone to Washington to explain how it works. In February, the district was one of 12 featured in Denver at a Department of Education conference on labor-management collaboration.
Dr. Weast, who calls the United States secretary of education, Arne Duncan, “a good friend,” said, “He’s told me, ‘Jerry, you’re going where the country needs to go.’ ”
Unfortunately, federal dollars from the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program are not going where Dr. Weast and the PAR program need to go. Montgomery County schools were entitled to $12 million from Race to the Top, but Dr. Weast said he would not take the money because the grant required districts to include students’ state test results as a measure of teacher quality. “We don’t believe the tests are reliable,” he said. “You don’t want to turn your system into a test factory.”
Race to the Top aims to spur student growth by improving teacher quality, which is exactly what Montgomery County is doing. Sad to say, the district is getting the right results the wrong way.
It does not seem to matter that 84 percent of Montgomery County students go on to college and that 63 percent earn degrees there — the very variables that President Obama has said should be the true measure of academic success. It does not seem to matter that 2.5 percent of all black children in America who pass an Advanced Placement test live in Montgomery County, more than five times its share of the nation’s black population.
Kudos to Montgomery County for staying with a proven successful strategy that enhances teacher practice and positively impacts student achievement. But it makes me wonder how long they can afford to reject Race to the Top money as budgets get tighter and tighter. Under the federal rules, the 11-year program that has a proven track record will receive no funding (because it doesn’t rely on standardized test scores), while other programs, newly-created and untested – DO receive funding BECAUSE they rely on standardized test scores.
Full article here.