Maryland State Department of Education has taken the first concrete steps towards evaluating teachers based in part on how well their students demonstrate comprehension of lessons. This will be a significant and landmark change for one of the nations best school systems. The new system of evaluation will be piloted first in seven school districts, including Baltimore city and county, Charles, Kent, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and St. Mary’s counties, in the Fall of 2011.
This shift in policy of how teachers are evaluated, has not come without strong opposition from teachers. MSDE however has made this change in an effort to keep Maryland schools in the forefront of national efforts to hold teachers and principals more accountable for student acheivement. Maryland is among approximately 12 school jurisdictions that are pioneers in linking student acheivement with teacher and adminstrators evaluations.
Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley created the Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness. This council was charged with developing a new teacher and principal evaluation system for Maryland Public Schools. The council insisted on a requirement that 50% of a teacher’s job rating be based upon student performance. The student performance would be based upon student scores on state tests like the Maryland Student Assessment (MSA) and High School Assessments (HSA).
Nearly 3/4 of teachers in the state teach a subject that is not covered by state tests. The evaluation system needed to account for need to assess student performance. The performance will be measured using a variety of methods. The panel recommended writing samples or even small group videos of performances for drama and music teachers.
The new evaluation system was approved by a 13-7 vote. Every teacher on the panel voted against the new evaluation system. The teachers on the panel are for the most part members or are representatives of teacher unions. Teacher unions, including the National Education Association are opposed to linking teacher evaluations to student performance.
Elizabeth Weller, is the vice president of the Maryland State Education Association and co-chair of the panel with State Superintendent Dr. Grasmick. She voted against the report. Ms. Weller said the panel had agreed to disagree and that the final evaluation system will take into account what is learned during the pilot this coming school year.
“I think this will make the teachers and the process better in our state. We are going to look in a very serious way at the progress of students and what can we do to accelerate that,” State School Superintendent Dr. Nancy S. Grasmick told the Baltimore Sun.
After the pilot system for teachers and principals is completed for the school year 2011-2012, the process will be reviewed and evaluated. MSDE will then make any changes deemed necessary. The full program will take effect in the 2013-2014 school year. The new evaluation system was suppose to be implemented for the 2012-2013 school year, but the Maryland school system received an extension from federal officials for extending the pilot system.
The need to link teacher evaluations with student performance is in part due to the Race to the Top dollars Maryland was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. Maryland was one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that won a Race to the Top grant from the U.S. Department of Education last year. The grants were distributed to school districts based in part on a commitment to pass reforms, including a new teacher evaluation system.
Teacher Evaluation System as approved will include:
- 50% of a teacher’s evaluation based on a qualitative assessment by the principal, including lesson plans, the environment of the classroom and other factors that the local school system can determine
- 30% will be determined by the state and and must include assessments such as the state test. However the state test may be only one of three assessments of student progress. The others will be chosen at least next year by the district from a long list, including unit tests called benchmarks, portfolios that include samples of student work and other factors.
- 20% of the evalutaion will be chosen by the school district and will be assessments of student work as well.
- Teachers will then be rated as ineffective, effective or highly effective.