years by anywhere between 29 percent
States have moved in the direction of
sound principles that teachers respect.
and 72 percent depending on the grade fashioning teacher evaluation as a giant
They have avoided the ranking and
level and subject. There is little evidence sorting mechanism whose purpose is to rating fixation aimed at firing or con-
that much has improved in the city’s
rank and rate teachers, bestow bonuses ferring bonus rewards on a few at the
high-poverty, all-black schools. With
and other extrinsic benefits on the high margins. Instead, their approach of nur-
hindsight, D.C.’s risky reform strategies flyers, and target the low scorers for
turing good teaching skills and a
feel like a missed opportunity to get it
remediation or dismissal.
learning culture among the entire work-right.
That’s a shame, because Montgomery force has reaped benefits worth recog-
Montgomery County, in contrast,
County’s approach and the principles
nizing and emulating. EL
has experienced consistent student
that underlie it offer a proven alternative
achievement gains, particularly in high-
that can change the culture of edu-
poverty schools, and has narrowed
cation overall. Constructing a teacher
the achievement gap by race and class,
according to district data. It has created
a professional culture focused on a
sophisticated understanding of the craft
Good teachers are not
of teaching. Throughout its 12 years,
Montgomery’s Professional Growth
found through some
System has maintained the enthusiastic
support of its workforce.
A Model to Emulate
pipeline. They are
In spite of the vast differences in their
approaches, Montgomery County and
made, over time.
the District of Columbia are both part of
a national focus on improving teacher
quality through greater emphasis on
teacher evaluation. Like Montgomery
evaluation system is an opportunity to
County, other districts—including Min- signal many things to the workforce.
neapolis, Minnesota, and Cincinnati,
Montgomery County’s evaluation
Columbus, and Toledo, Ohio—have
system is rigorous and holds teachers
also had decades of experience creating to high standards, but teachers feel
collaborative professional development
they are part of a learning organi-
systems. Hillsborough County, Florida, zation and their craft is respected. The
has recently jumped in with a prom-
teachers union is a partner with the
ising, highly collaborative, multifaceted district in improving schools. Teacher
evaluation is done with teachers, not to
Many other school systems across
them. Michael Winerip (2011) titled
the United States have taken an
his glowing New York Times account of
approach similar to that of the D.C.
Montgomery County’s PAR program
Public Schools, although perhaps not
“Helping Teachers Help Themselves.”
as extreme. Some, like Memphis, Ten-
This is the kind of professional culture
nessee, have modeled their system
that America’s best teachers seek.
directly on IMPACT.
Everything is not perfect in Mont-
Ironically, education “reformers”
gomery County. Maintaining the right
more often tout the District of Columbia balances in the Peer Assistance and
Curtis, R. (2011). District of Columbia Public
Schools: Defining instructional expectations
and aligning accountability and support.
Washington, DC: Aspen Institute.
Davis, L., Sylvia, K., & Simon, M., (2008,
September 28). Bargaining for better
teaching. Washington Post. Retrieved
Ingersoll, R. (2003). The wrong solution
to the teacher shortage. Educational
Leadership, 60( 8), 30–33.
Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M., & Papay, J.
(2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’
achievement. Teachers College Record,
than Montgomery County as a model
Review program is not easy. And solving
of teacher evaluation reform. Perhaps
problems related to the complexities of
that’s because they perceive IMPACT
individual schools’ cultures is a never-
as disrupting the status quo, which
is a good thing in its own right in the
But at least Montgomery County
reformers’ eyes. Over the past five years, leaders have built a teacher evaluation
more school systems in the United
system with the right purpose, based on
Mark Simon ( MSimon@epi.org) is an
education policy analyst at the Economic
Policy Institute and national coordinator
of the Mooney Institute for Teacher and
Union Leadership in Washington, D.C.