Questions still abound about how teachers will be evaluated as part of a voluntary pilot program for five public schools in Hagerstown.
Most questions center around how student learning growth will be measured since it likely will account for 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation.
The pilot program being developed by Washington County Public Schools officials, with help from the Washington County Teachers Association, is the school system's effort to design its own new evaluation system to comply with the Maryland Education Reform Act of 2010 and President Obama's education reform initiative, Race to the Top.
The Education Reform Act of 2010 says data on student progress shall be "a significant component" and "one of multiple measures" used to evaluate certified teachers and principals.
The school system must implement its own new evaluation system by the 2012-13 school year or adopt the state's model, said Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement. Hanlin said Maryland State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Education to make the evaluation system a no-fault system that year and put it into full effect during the 2013-14 school year because the issue is so complex.
Denise Fry, president of the teachers union, said union officials like being included in the design of the pilot program, which Fry considers a scientific experience.
Cancer research has been conducted for decades with every bit of information adding to the collective good of the research, Fry said.
That's how Fry said she sees this pilot program and other evaluation programs that have been researched and visited by officials involved in POWER's design.
"I will be honest with you. I don't know that anyone, nationwide, has found the magic bullet, so to speak, on this," Fry said.
A tentative framework
The local school system is trying to mirror Maryland's teacher evaluation framework as much as possible because the state framework is expected to become a mandate at some point, said Mike Markoe, the county school system's assistant superintendent for student and staff support.
According to that framework, 50 percent of the evaluation includes factors currently used in evaluating teachers. They are planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities, Hanlin said. The local school system can add more criteria to this list.
The other 50 percent of the evaluation is based on student learning growth.
How student growth will be measured is a "big debate by us locally as well as at the state level on the council," said Hanlin, a member of the Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness.
Student growth will be measured in many ways, not by just one test, Hanlin said.
Of the 50 percent of the evaluation dedicated to student learning growth in the state's model, 30 percent is tied to growth in student learning for an individual teacher from a baseline to at least one point in time, according to presentation documents. The other 20 percent is tied to growth in student learning for educator teams from a baseline to at least one other point in time, as well as growth in closing the achievement gap for the entire school.
School system officials could use different measures of student growth if they don't want to follow the state's framework, which Markoe said he believes is still in flux.
One of the things officials are struggling with is how to measure student growth for teachers of subject areas such as physical education and art, as well as student achievement specialists, Markoe said.
Officials have discussed having teachers in the pilot program evaluated seven times during a school year, but that's not final, Markoe said.
Effective vs. highly effective
Currently, the school system uses the terms satisfactory, area for growth and unsatisfactory in evaluating teachers, Markoe told the school board during last Tuesday's meeting.
Under the pilot program, the terms highly effective, effective and ineffective would be used to evaluate teachers and principals.
The difference between effective and highly effective is still being determined.
One option being discussed at the state level would require that for a teacher to be deemed effective, students must have shown one year's worth of growth in a school year, Hanlin said. So, for reading, a fourth-grader would start the year reading at the fourth-grade, first-month level and by the end of the school year be reading at the fifth-grade level.
For a teacher to be highly effective, students would have to show more than one year's worth of growth in a single school year.
According to the Interim Report of the Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness, released in April, members appear to be coming to a consensus on the characteristics of an effective teacher.
They would be someone who:
- Has high expectations for all students and demonstrates adequate growth in student learning, which will be determined by multiple measures.
- Knows the subjects they teach and knows how to teach those subjects to all students.
- Uses a variety of instructional resources to plan and structure engaging learning opportunities.
- Collaborates with other teachers, administrators, parents and education professionals to ensure student success.
- Is committed to continuous improvement through professional development and actively participates in the professional community.