Maryland Schools to Embrace Student Growth in Evaluations

Maryland is set to introduce a new teacher and principal evaluation system based 50 percent on teacher skills and knowledge and 50 percent on student learning and growth, writes Calum McKinney at the Delmarva Now.

The evaluations come as part of the federal Race to the Top education reform grant, which brings more than $250 million into the state’s public schools.

“The 50 percent for professional practices is not a problem for us,” said Wicomico County Race to the Top Coordinator Linda Stark.

“Student growth, however, is a whole new can of worms.”

Citing what many critics feel, Stark questions how student growth in subjects without standardized tests can be measured, as using teacher-graded tests could present a conflict of interest.

Some educators are also concerned as comparing teacher performance in different subject areas won’t be straightforward.

“Just because a test in one subject is as rigorous as one in another doesn’t mean the two are comparable,” said Ruth Malone, the district’s director of professional development and curriculum.

Many believe that teachers shouldn’t be held responsible for students whose learning and growth is often determined by outside socioeconomic factors and natural ability levels.

District Assistant Superintendent Margo Handy said the goal is to implement as a pilot program for the start of the next school year. The new system will become mandatory in the 2013-14 school year. Until then the existing evaluation will remain in place for many schools.

Wicomico school officials who are ready to embrace the pilot program, saying they are basically designing the student growth-based evaluation system. As there is no current state model as yet, each district is able to take a tailored approach.

In Wicomico, a teacher evaluation committee has been formed, which is made up of eight members from the local teacher’s union and eight central office members, plus one central office member to support the committee’s work.

“There’s only one model for this in the country, Colorado, and it hasn’t been in effect there long enough to see if it works,” said Dave White, president of the district’s teacher’s union.

“We’re on the cutting edge here. We’re blazing a trail.”