There has been tension between some local school districts and the state over how to tie standardized tests to teacher performance. The new systems were developed over the last two years in response to national and local education reform efforts.
The state had asked school systems to ensure that the Maryland School Assessment, a standardized test, comprised 20 percent of the measure for evaluating teachers.
Although not all plans that were approved use only scores from the state standardized exams to evaluate teachers, they all still use data tied to the Maryland School Assessment in some way to reach the 20 percent benchmark, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery said.
The department wanted to allow flexibility for some schools as they transition to the new evaluation systems, Lowery said.
“We have local jurisdictions that have come up with thoughtful ways to” evaluate educators, Lowery said. “We’re going to learn from that and share it across the state.”
Baltimore City’s plan still needs approval, pending final agreements to be signed between district officials and union leaders.
Maryland school systems had to have new teacher evaluation systems in place to comply with its grant proposal for federal money from Race to the Top, President Obama’s education reform initiative. Montgomery and Frederick counties have an additional year to come up with new teacher evaluation plans because they didn’t sign up for funding from Race to the Top.
The state has required school systems to make planning and professional practice 50 percent of the calculation for developing teacher evaluations. The other half must be based on quantitative data from either standardized tests, class assessments and other data teachers and principals choose to use.
“We want people to understand that the most critical part of this evaluation system is the professional practice,” Lowery said. “That 50 percent is the most important. The other 50 percent [based on quantitative data] is a check and balance.”
Cheryl Bost, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association, said she is happy that some counties are being allowed to move forward with plans not wholly reliant on the 20 percent measure for standardized tests.
Bost, however, said she is still concerned about using the Maryland School Assessment for making employment decisions because the exam doesn’t align with the new, more rigorous curriculum teachers are using based on Common Core State Standards.
“We still would ask them to direct counties not to make high-stakes employment decisions because there are still many unanswered questions,” Bost said.