Baltimore Teachers File Grievance Over Evaluation Changes

It hasn't been a pleasant start to summer vacation for Baltimore teachers, whose union filed a grievance against the municipality's school district over a last-minute change in the structure of its "cut points" in educator evaluations, which dictate pay raises and status, according to an article by Erica Green of The Baltimore Sun.

The Baltimore Teachers' Union (BTU) president Marietta English sent an email to all members letting them know of the grievance in which she stated:

"There have been a lot of concerns regarding the teacher evaluation. The BTU never agreed to change the percentages within the evaluation."

The school district has relayed that it changed the "cut scores" in large part because legislation was passed in May forbidding the use of state test scores in teacher evaluations. As an example, under the old system, a rating of 80 out of 100 meant teachers a classification of "highly effective" and most likely receive a raise due to a 2010 agreement that joined evaluation to contract pay.

The district raised that standard to 86 out of 100, but according to the BTU, did not inform teachers of the change until letters with their rankings were sent out.

The issue stemmed from legislation that wasn't signed until May, prohibiting the use of test scores in teacher or principal evaluations until 2016-2017. The district decided that if it couldn't measure student growth by using scores from the state test, that it would raise the cut scores.

Instead, teacher classroom evaluations made up 85% of the overall evaluation, a fact that has many teachers crying foul.

For Bobbi O'Brien, a ninth-grade teacher at Patterson High School, her score of 69 this year meant that she was no longer considered an "effective" teacher, but a "developing" one.

O'Brien, who has been teaching in the city for four years and has a record of proficient evaluations in the system, said the "developing" label she received was based largely on a classroom observation that she felt was subjective.

She said she didn't explain her class objectives in a way that her principal this year thought was exemplary, even though it was the same way that had earned her the highest marks on evaluations before.

"The city would have the public believe that the difference between a highly effective and developing teacher is that one doesn't have what it takes," O'Brien said. "When really it's whether or not I can showcase all of the skills I have as a teacher in two 90-minute periods of the school year."

Baltimore City Schools is led by Tisha Edwards, who has served as Interim CEO for more than a year. Edwards said the district believed it and the union had reached a compromise on the evaluations, and that the district is willing to "revisiting" the new evaluation structure.

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