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Study Shows Progress In Maryland On Teacher And Principal Evaluations

Gwendolyn Glenn
Dr. Lillian Lowery, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools

Maryland education officials are making substantial progress in their efforts to develop new evaluation systems for principals and teachers. That’s according to a new independent report released today.

More than 1,000 principals, 15,000 teachers and numerous other education stakeholders in Maryland participated in the survey. The study was federally-funded and conducted by the Community Training and Assistance Center (CTAC) and the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center at WestEd. Both organizations provide assistance to education officials around the country in the implementation of education reforms.

The results of the report, unveiled at the Maryland Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, revealed that Maryland teachers and principals are feeling more comfortable with new evaluation methods that seek to incorporate student achievement.

CTAC founder and executive director Bill Slotkin says the greatest acceptance of the new evaluations, which are in their second year of implementation, came from districts where officials aggressively field-tested evaluation changes. “They’re feeling better about the process, more confident about it, more skilled,” Slotkin said. “Where people did not take it that seriously you see some fear. There were a few districts that didn’t approach it with the same rigor and teachers and principals feel less confident and less knowledgeable in the evaluation process and what its intents are.”

Slotkin said teachers and principals also want assurances that the evaluations will be applied consistently. They also want more training in terms of evaluation observation techniques and connecting student achievement data to the process.

Maryland Superintendent Dr. Lillian Lowery says she is pleased with the survey’s results. “It tells us where we have tremendous strengths and where we have opportunities to improve,” Lowery said.

Slotkin said most state school districts use 95 percent of the evaluation model developed by state officials, with some components aligned to meet specific local needs. Last year on the last day of school, Baltimore city teachers and union officials protested a last-minute change in how they were evaluated, as it put more emphasis on classroom observations of teachers.

Lowery believes the report’s results and current collaborations between state, local and union officials, as well as other stakeholders, in developing a workable evaluation system, bodes well for resolving the issues city teachers had with the process. “I believe that says to Baltimore city, where there were questions at the end of the school year, that people are listening to them, we hear them and we want their voice at the table to help us plot a path forward,” Lowery said.

State and local districts have been developing new evaluation systems for the past four years now. The revamping stems mainly from Maryland’s participation in the federal Race to the Top program, which gave money to states with ambitious education reform goals that included a teacher evaluation process based on professional development and student growth. Maryland received $250 million from the program.