DOE Grants Maryland Extension on Teacher Evaluation Waiver

The state of Maryland has received an extension on its waiver for teacher evaluations.

The United States Department of Education (DOE) granted Maryland the one-year extension allowing the state to waive using student test scores in grades 3-8 in evaluations of its 60,000 teachers, writes Liz Bowie for The Baltimore Sun. One-half of the evaluation is contingent on this data.

Policymakers hope the evaluations will be used to weed out teachers who are not performing as well as they should, and give higher pay to those teachers who are going above and beyond.

According to Adam Mendelson, a spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, teacher evaluations should "enhance their professional practice rather than simply narrow their focus to high-stakes standardized testing."

Many other states are asking for the waiver extension as well as districts get used to the new Common Core standards and the PARCC tests that will be given for the first time next spring. Teachers claim it takes two years of testing to adjust to the new system.

"This is only a one-year agreement to live through the on-boarding of the new assessment," said Maryland State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery.

The state will need to reapply next year.

A new teacher evaluation system was adopted by Maryland this year, based on professional practice and student growth. The results of these evaluations are expected to allow for a faster response to educator performance with appropriate professional development methods.

Education officials met with teachers unions and related education organizations in June to discuss evaluation methods. A 12-point document was drawn up, which is believed to strengthen the evaluation methods and was signed during a Maryland State Board of Education meeting.

"This level of statewide collaboration is unprecedented nationally," said Bill Slotnik, founder of the Community Training and Assistance Center, a nonprofit group that has worked with 30 states on teacher and principal evaluations. In Maryland, he said, "the key constituencies are saying, ‘If we're going to have effective implementation, we're better off working together to make that happen.'"

Learning objectives for students are the main focus of the agreement, with "rigorous and measurable, but obtainable", consistent goals being set across the state. According to the agreement, a study will be made available by August 2016 concerning the implementation of such objectives, writes Donna St. George for The Washington Post.

"It is a real sign of collaboration and it brings a lot of good thinking together," said Jack Smith, the Maryland State Department of Education's chief academic officer.

Liz Bowie for The Baltimore Sun reported that the National Education Association gave Maryland a $400,000 grant to carry out the agreement.

Maryland legislatures had expected the waiver and already written a law disallowing the use of the exam scores until the 2016-2017 school year.

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