97% of Maryland Teachers Effective or Better


Maryland public school teachers' evaluations have been released, and the results show that 97% of the state's teachers have been rated either "effective" or "highly effective" in the three-tiered rating system.

Of that 97%, 56% were rated "effective" and 41% received the "highly effective" rating, with just 3% found to be "ineffective".

The Maryland State Department of Education stated that schools in the highest quartile for poverty and minority student population had more "ineffective" teachers and fewer "highly effective" teachers than those in the lowest quartile for poverty, according to WNEW. The evaluations were based on several criteria including planning and preparation, instructional delivery, classroom environment, professional development, and student growth.

Although 3% of Maryland teachers receiving an "ineffective" rating does not seem to be a large number, this means that out of 43,800 teachers in the workforce, 1,200 received an unacceptable evaluation, a number which is triple what it was last school year. School officials are quick to remind the public that more analysis is needed to determine the validity of the data in terms of how helpful it is to improve instruction, says Liz Bowie of The Baltimore Sun.

"This is a first-time effort. We are learning," said Dave Volrath, planning and development officer for the state Department of Education. Parents "should be patient with the school district and their school, giving time to analyze the data to improve teacher and principal performance."

The only district not participating in the evaluation was Montgomery County, because the county did not sign on to the federal Race to the Top challenge.

The results were so varied between school systems and individual schools that many are asking whether the ratings are accurate. Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based nonprofit, said the inconsistencies could be because of the manner in which the new system was used from one district to another. Each district was allowed to design its own evaluations according to state guidelines, which includes factoring in student achievement.

In order for the state to receive federal funding through the Race to the Top program, it had to agree to use standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations. The president of the union that represents the majority of the state's teachers, Cheryl Bost, said that first the data should be assessed for accuracy and quality. If the data is reliable, struggling teachers should be supported.

The new results are "one piece of data we can use in a multitude of data to move forward with all these reforms," said Bost, of the Maryland State Education Association.

Teachers who were rated "ineffective" can be fired. In Baltimore, teachers who ranked as "highly effective" can earn higher salaries.The possibility that principals may have been too harsh or too lenient in their evaluations might mean that principals need more training in the evaluation process.

"This is a big cultural shift to go from an evaluation system that was much more subjective" to one that uses objective standards, Bell-Ellwanger said. In some schools, she said, principals are struggling with the difficult conversations they must have with teachers who need to improve.

Now, a private contractor will work with state officials to analyze the information more intensely. These results will be released in the spring.

WBAL's Tim Tooten reports that the state is hopeful that growth will begin first in the classroom and then in student test scores.

"As you know in this high-performing state, they would want to be highly effective, so it is our responsibility to work with them, give them feedback and individual learning opportunities to grow so that our students grow along with them," said Lillian Lowery, the state school superintendent.

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