Maryland’s new state superintendent of schools, Lillian M. Lowery, stopped by the Educator Effectiveness Academy at South Hagerstown High School on Thursday.
Lowery, who took over the state post July 2, has been touring the state, meeting with officials of local school systems, she told a packed auditorium at the high school. Lowery’s last job was as secretary of education for the state of Delaware.
Approximately 420 teachers and school administrators from the region attended the three-day academy, which wrapped up Thursday, to learn about the more rigorous curriculum being adopted in the state.
Lowery told participants that adopting the new curriculum, known as the Common Core, is a “no-brainer.”
“Of course we want more rigor with our students. We want it early on,” Lowery told the crowd.
“We want, when we’re out there saying college and career-ready, for it to mean something. So it doesn’t become a buzz word. It has substance behind it,” Lowery said.
Asked later how the Maryland State Department of Education can support the local school system in closing the gap for children who were behind grade level with the current state curriculum and would be facing a more rigorous curriculum, Lowery said the academy provided a great opportunity for educators from around the state to share intervention strategies and “best practices” for teaching.
Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said he met with Lowery for an hour in his office before they went to South High.
Wilcox said he talked to Lowery about the challenges he’d found during his first year at the helm of the local school system. Lowery asked him about the school system’s career technology programs, how the high schools are organized and how the state education department can help the school system, he said.
Lowery was asked byThe Herald-Mailabout future financial bonuses for teachers and school administrators under a movement to tie their evaluations to students’ academic growth.
Currently, the local school system is running a pilot program at five schools that takes into account students’ academic growth and provides financial bonuses to teachers and school administrators, such as principals, who are deemed to be effective or highly effective. Most of the money for that program is provided by a federal grant.
The school system will need to implement a new teacher evaluation system, which takes into account student achievement, by the 2013-14 school year to comply with the Maryland Education Reform Act of 2010.
“The bottom line, for me, with the teacher evaluation around student growth isn’t about money or bonuses. It’s about our children learning,” Lowery said.
Whether there is a “differentiated” pay system or financial bonuses tied to those evaluations is a decision that needs to be made at the local level, with the local school system and union leaders, Lowery said.