By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun
6:58 PM EDT, October 27, 2011
Maryland is one of 17 states leading a movement to evaluate teachers based on student performance in the classroom, but the state doesn't require a teacher to be evaluated on an annual basis, according to a new report.
The National Council on Teacher Quality report released Wednesday analyzes states with the most ambitious teacher evaluation policies, including Maryland. NCTQ is a nonprofit based in Washington that advocates for changes to policies governing evaluations, training and pay for teachers.
Just two years ago, 35 states did not include student achievement in teacher evaluations. But the landscape changed significantly after the federal Race to the Top grant encouraged states to include test scores, and now Maryland and 22 states are in the process of including objective measures as part of evaluations.
Until recently, Maryland did not have a state-mandated evaluation process. Teachers are now evaluated on the basis of lesson plans, principals' observations, experience and education.
"Maryland [is one of the states] that have moved in a meaningful way to ensure that they will … identify the most outstanding teachers and those who consistently underperform," said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the council. But the council report notes that the state does not link a poor evaluation to dismissal of a teacher.
No state has fully implemented new teacher evaluation policies, but three states — Delaware, Rhode Island and Tennessee — will this year.
Several counties in Maryland, including Baltimore County, are currently trying out different teacher evaluations in a few schools. Information from those pilot evaluations will then be used to refine the state evaluation framework that is being put together by a statewide panel.
By the 2013-2014 school year, teachers in the state will be evaluated based on the new model.
The council criticizes the state for failing to require an annual evaluation for teachers who have advanced degrees. Nontenured teachers, or teachers in the first three years of teaching, do receive annual evaluations. Once a teacher has tenure and earns a master's or advanced degree, the evaluation period drops off.
Giving a teacher a full evaluation each year is time-consuming, Jacobs said, so a number of states are saying they will do only periodic evaluations for teachers who are rated as highly effective.
But Maryland shouldn't base the cycle of evaluations on a degree that has never been proved to have any relationship to student achievement, she said.
Interim state school Superintendent Bernard Sadusky agrees in part and said that a discussion is under way about whether an advanced degree should be a factor in the evaluation or compensation of teachers. Unless teachers have master's degrees in their classroom subjects, "there may not be a link with student achievement," Sadusky said.
Betty Weller, vice president of the Maryland State Education Association, the teachers union, said the issue is not whether frequent evaluations are good, but whether school districts can afford to do them at a time when budgets are being cut.
"We don't have staff in the state to do a full-blown evaluation on every teacher," said Weller, adding that more frequent evaluations are being discussed.
The state was also criticized for failing to have a written policy linking a poor evaluation to dismissal. When the state received $250 million in federal Race to the Top funds, Weller said, it committed to having an evaluation policy that gets rid of ineffective teachers.
"If you do not get 'satisfactory' on the evaluation, you will be given a year or a period of time to make improvements, and then if there is no improvement or you don't come up to standard, then you could be dismissed," she said.
Weller said the union doesn't want to see poor teachers in front of classrooms, "but we are about giving struggling teachers a chance to improve their craft."