Delay on state regulation for teacher evaluations

A state legislative committee has delayed the adoption of a regulation that would require student achievement to be at least 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation in Maryland.

The Maryland state school board proposed the regulation last spring and included it as one of the key elements of its reform measures in its winning Race to the Top application over the summer.

If the stalemate continues beyond Nov. 12, the governor will have to make a decision on whether to take the side of the state's largest teachers union, which opposes the regulation, and risk losing federal Race to the Top dollars or whether to let the regulation take effect. He could also seek to find some middle ground.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George's County Democrat and a member of the legislative committee that put a hold on the regulation, said he believes the proposal goes further in a number of details than a law passed during the last General Assembly session.

He believes that the law requires the state to give local school systems a broad outline of what the new teacher evaluations will look like but that each school district will negotiate the details with its teacher unions. Only if a school board and its teachers are unable to come to an agreement by a certain date would a state evaluation system be put in place.

But Pinsky said he believes the state has already started to create more detailed provisions for the local districts to follow.

In addition, he said, the law states that student achievement will be a "significant" factor in the evaluations; the state board has been more specific in calling for it to be 50 percent.

"I just think that it seems to me what the legislature said last April was ignored. … If we go down this path of legislative reform, we want to get it right," said Pinsky, who represents an area of the state that stands to gain from the Race to the Top money.

The committee can keep the regulation on hold until Nov. 12 but then must vote whether to approve it.

"If this regulation were to be stymied, there is the possibility that Maryland's Race to the Top funds would be jeopardized in some way. But it was never about the grant funds when we launched this; it was designed to fuel student achievement," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the state Department of Education.

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